Even for healthcare professionals, it is often difficult to accurately recognize the differences in the presentation of the common cold, seasonal influenza and H1N1 influenza. So here are some quick points to help you recognize these differences quickly and efficiently:
• FEVER: Is rare with a cold, but is usually present with seasonal flu. A fever of at least 101° is seen in 80% of H1N1 Influenza cases.
• COUGHING: A hacking, productive cough is often present with a cold. A non-productive (dry) cough is usually present with the seasonal flu as well as with H1N1.
• ACHES: Slight body aches and pains are often a part of a cold. Moderate body aches are common with the seasonal flu, and severe aches and pains are common with H1N1.
• STUFFY NOSE: Is commonly present with a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week. A runny nose is commonly present with the seasonal flu, and stuffy nose is usually uncommon with H1N1.
• CHILLS: Are uncommon with a cold. Chills are mild to moderate with the seasonal flu, and 60% of people who have H1N1 experience chills.
• TIREDNESS: Is fairly mild with a cold. Tiredness is moderate and more likely referred to as a lack of energy with the seasonal flu. Tiredness is moderate to severe with H1N1.
• SNEEZING: Is commonly present with a cold and the seasonal flu, but is uncommon with H1N1.
• SUDDEN SYMPTOMS: Cold symptoms tend to develop over a few days. With seasonal influenza, symptoms tend to develop over a few days and include flushed face, loss of appetite, dizziness and/or vomiting/nausea. These symptoms usually last 4-7 days, and diarrhea is common. H1N1 infection has a rapid onset within 3-6 hours. H1N1 hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains. Symptoms usually last 4-7 days, and diarrhea is common.
• HEADACHE : Is fairly uncommon with a cold, and fairly common with the seasonal flu. A headache is very common with H1N1 and present in 80% of cases.
• SORE THROAT: Is commonly present with a cold and the seasonal flu, but is uncommon with H1N1.
• CHEST DISCOMFORT: Is mild to moderate with a cold, moderate with the seasonal flu, and often severe with H1N1. Medical attention should be sought immediately for severe chest pain.
Some useful prevention tips include:
• Cough & sneeze into your elbow
• Wash hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 15 -20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when soap & water are not available
• Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth without washing or using hand sanitizer first
• Stay home if you are sick to avoid contaminating others.