Colds vs. the flu - Should you stay at home?

Over the winter months you’ll be very lucky to escape without so much as a cold. But for most of us, getting a cold is a fact of life. So what do you do when it strikes you? Brave it at work or stay home and recover?

Popular wisdom tells us that taking a day or two off to kick it is your best option. Realistically, it can be tough to call in sick and your workload might convince you otherwise, even when a day on the couch is enticing. But when the health of you and your workmates is at risk, you’re doing everyone a favour. If you can work from home you might be able to work out a compromise.

The situation changes when you get the flu, which can be a lot nastier. So how can you tell which you one you have?

What is the difference?

If you’re suffering from a particularly rough cold it can be tough to tell the difference. Frank Bowden, Professor of Medicine at ANU, tells us that most people who reckon they have the flu, don’t. A common cold, he says, will likely cause some of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • General malaise

On average, you can expect around three each year, but they can range from very mild to something resembling the flu.

The flu, by definition, is a form of the influenza virus and is usually more severe. The signs include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Shaking
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Malaise
  • Headache
  • Coughing

If you get the flu, it’s more likely you’ll need to stay home from work. The best thing to do is get plenty of rest, and if necessary, consider seeing a doctor and taking antiviral medication.

How to stay healthy

Sometimes getting a cold or flu is out of your control, but there are a number of things you can do to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy.

 

Written by Jack Rothery



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