Respiratory illnesses: Flu and cold

Flu is an infectious respiratory illness, which is caused by flu viruses. In Greece, flu circulates from October to April, but it is especially common from January to March. Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include an aching body, a high fever, a headache, feeling tired, a cough and/or have difficulty breathing. Apart from these symptoms, children can also get nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Gastrointestinal symptoms are not common in adults.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces. The majority of healthy people do not get complications caused by flu. However, adults and children, who are considered "at risk", could become seriously ill.

Adults and children, who are considered "at risk", are :

  1. Adults 60 or over
  2. Health care professionals and employees
  3. Children and adults that have a long-term medical condition:
    • Lung disease
    • Heart disease
    • Weakened immune system
    • Organ transplant
    • Blood disease
    • Diabetes or other metabolic diseases
    • Kidney disease
    • Neurological disease
  4. Pregnancy
  5. Children who are having long-term aspirin treatment to avoid being affected by the Reye syndrome due to flu infection
  6. Caregivers of infants less than 6 months old or of people at high risk of serious flu complications
  7. Closed populations (military, boarding schools etc)

If you are an adult or child, who are considered "at risk", and got the flu, consult your doctor immediately. Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe. Cold is caused by different viruses compared to flu. Cold symptoms appear gradually, last for a shorter period of time and do not cause severe complications compared to flu symptoms. Cold symptoms are usually cough, fever and blocked or runny nose.

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To protect yourself and the people around you from infectious respiratory viral illnesses:

  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • Avoid crowded spaces.
  • Drink a lot of fluids, especially hot fluids
  • Antibiotics are not recommended
  • Vaccinate
  • Eat fruit and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly

If you get sick and your symptoms are severe or your symptoms do not improve after 3 days, consult your doctor or pharmacist. To reduce the risk of spreading infectious respiratory viral illnesses:

  • Avoid contact with many people.
  • Use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean the surfaces, which are possibly infected by germs.
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