Cold or The Flu?

I have, had, am recovering from the flu.

I say this with some reservation as I am usually reluctant to claim the flu for what is probably just a cold. Many people these days seem to say they have flu when they just have a bad cold, after all it does sound so much more dramatic, especially if you are trying to wrangle a few days off work. Although the two conditions share some symptoms they are very different beasties. I have had flu before. The last time was many years ago when I was at college and I remember how ill I was. I have had bad colds since, but nothing as bad as genuine flu until now.

I’m not a doctor botherer, I don’t believe in going to the doctor with complaints that I feel I can deal with adequately at home. Doctors should be reserved for the serious problems, especially these days when the NHS is short-handed, under-funded and can’t afford the luxury of treating those who don’t really need it. When I was a child our family GP had a sign on his waiting room wall which read “Prescription is the art of keeping the patient amused while Nature effects a cure.” Well I’m not fussed about being amused, just let Nature get on with it – with a little sensible self-help.

My son started first, with what we, as usual, dismissed as a bad cold. Then a few days later my husband succumbed. A day after that I got it. This was last Tuesday; in the morning I was fine, went to my Spanish class as usual, came home then a short while later from having no symptoms I suddenly had a splitting headache, my eyes hurt, I ached and coughed. After that I was fit for nothing for several days, the lightest effort left me exhausted and I was alternately frozen or sweating hot! – all three of us were the same, at slightly different stages according to when we first went down with it. Pretty well all I could do was sleep and even that was often disrupted. Using my brain for anything was out of the question. I confess I am now slightly worried as you can incubate the flu for a couple of days before symptoms appear and I just hope I haven’t passed it on to the rest of the Spanish group, some of whom are not young!

My son insisted it was flu. I was still reluctant to name it as such but when I began to feel slightly better I decided to check out whether or not what we had was indeed the flu or just a bad cold. I came across a simple chart on the internet showing the differences between the symptoms of a cold and the flu which I was hoping to share here in case anyone else finds it of help but it won’t let me so here is the link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu. Our symptoms ticked all the Influenza boxes.

Now what I don’t understand is that both my son and I lost our appetites, I could hardly face food at all, though my husband could still eat to his normal capacity. In fact he never seems to lose his appetite when he is unwell, whereas I always do. The other slight problem is that he had, several weeks earlier, had the flu jab, after which he felt very unwell with tightness in his chest and pains in his arms – which coming after his recent angina diagnosis was a trifle worrying especially as his ‘puffer’, didn’t shift it. The jab obviously didn’t prevent him getting the flu. With the vaccine given a less than 50% effectiveness rating I don’t think he will bother again. I didn’t have the jab; perhaps the main difference has been that normally, at least with a cold, he would get it worse than me but this time I seem to have been worse than him, so maybe it did do him some good after all.

I am now on the mend, my head doesn’t ache, most other symptoms have reduced but I do have a rather nasty cough that keeps me awake and sometimes gets such a grip I don’t think I’m going to stop. But on the plus side, due to my loss of appetite I have now finally lost the few extra pounds I put on over Christmas and New Year – be thankful for small mercies.

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Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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