The seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses have gotten a lot of attention lately, but the common cold -- an infection of the nose and throat -- hasn't gone away.

The seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses have gotten a lot of attention lately, but the common cold -- an infection of the nose and throat -- hasn't gone away.


In fact, the flu, cold and allergies all hit this time of year, said Tom Kallstrom, chief operating officer of the American Association for Respiratory Care in Irving, Texas.


"It's important to try to differentiate as much as you can between a cold, a flu or even an allergy," said Kallstrom, a registered respiratory therapist.


Many people who are sensitive to pollens in the air could start sneezing and demonstrating symptoms similar to that of a cold, Kallstrom said. And if someone has asthma or another respiratory ailment, a cold or flu could worsen those allergies.


People whose symptoms cause impairment or who have underlying problems such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) should seek physician guidance, Kallstrom said.


How can you tell what you have?


Kallstrom said differences between cold and flu include:


- Fever. People may get a mild fever with a cold. But with the flu, a fever will be higher (100 to 102 degrees) and might last a few days.


- Headaches. They are common with flu, but not so much with colds.


- Aches and pains. They are commonly seen more with the flu.


- Fatigue and weakness. "You could have that with a cold, but it's more pronounced with a flu," said Kallstrom, who added that there's a more general feeling of malaise or fatigue with the flu. "Oftentimes, people with a cold will try to continue on their daily activities as much as they can, but a flu will essentially put you at home or in bed."


- Sneezing. It's often seen with a cold, but not as often with the flu.


- Sore throat and cough. More commonly seen with a cold. "The common cold typically starts off with a sore throat, fatigue and possibly low-grade fever, and then over the next couple of days will also add in nasal congestion and a cough. ... It can last seven to 10 days," said Dr. Harald Lausen, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.


What you can do


There is no "great way" to prevent colds, Lausen said, other than using common sense to keep healthy.


"Enough rest, good diet, those types of things, along with hand-washing, is probably as preventive as you can get," Lausen said.


"There is no great evidence that any supplements or herbal remedies provide any better prevention than the typical things."


Only a few cold treatments might work, Lausen said.


"There is possibly a mild benefit for adults when they use a combination of an antihistamine and a decongestant," Lausen said.


For more information, visit AARC's Web site, www.yourlunghealth.org. This month's issue is on "Flu Prevention, Information and Resources."


"It's designed just for patients. ... We want to share with them the things that they need to know to manage their respiratory health," Kallstrom said.


The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.)