This amazing guest post was written by Jeriann Watkins Ireland, a writer and wellness enthusiast. We encourage you to check out more from Jeriann at her website.

The flu is so widespread, that many people confuse it with the common cold. In everyday conversation, the terms can even be interchangeable. But while a cold is basically “the sniffles”, flus can be deadly, as recently shown when an 8-year old girl in Melbourne died from the flu. This article will explore what the flu actually is (as opposed to a cold), and ways to naturally protect yourself and your family.

The Seriousness of the Flu

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“The flu” can be seen as a misnomer, because there are many strains of flu, it’s not just one disease. Each year, certain strains of the influenza virus become more widespread than others. For example, in Victoria Australia, there have been 95 flu deaths this year. Symptoms are often mistaken as a cold, ignored, and left to worsen. Children are more susceptible to the flu because their immune systems are not fully developed and their bodies can quickly be overwhelmed by viruses.

Flu vs. Cold

Flus and colds are both respiratory illnesses, but flus can lead to serious medical conditions, while colds typically run their course and disappear without complication. The influenza virus weakens the immune system and can lead to other serious respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear and sinus infections. It can also aggravate existing conditions such as asthma and congestive heart failure.

Symptoms of the flu are a sore throat, cough, fever, muscle achiness, headaches, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, mostly in children. Runny and stuffy noses are also typical, but are more prevalent in colds. Fever is one symptom that is not always present. Since parents are usually very wary of high fevers in children, many can mistake lack of fever for lack of seriousness.

When Should You Visit the Doctor?

Since many of the symptoms of influenza are shared with the common cold, it can be difficult to know when to go to the doctor. If you’re experiencing dizziness, chest pains, severe vomiting, or difficulty breathing, it’s important to go to the doctor. In the case of severe vomiting, this allows them to make sure your body can get the hydration and nutrients it needs. They can also check for other infections and monitor your body’s response for signs of how serious it is.

If you suspect you have the flu, but don’t have any of the more serious symptoms listed above, it’s typical to wait a couple days to see if it gets more serious. It’s vital that during these few days, you hydrate excessively and get plenty of rest. Pay attention to your sleep cycle and note whether the amount of sleep you’re getting is affecting your energy and exhaustion levels.

Whether you decide to go to the doctor or not, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from the flu. As mentioned above, hydration is key, as your body needs to be well-hydrated to fully protect itself. Using a humidifier can be helpful, as it can make the air less dry and easier for your body to ingest. It’s also best to rest, both to let your body’s energy focus on healing and to limit access to contaminants and stressors. During flu season, follow these tips for healthy travel to limit spread of disease for both yourself and others.

It’s important to take the flu seriously to protect yourself and your family. Going to the doctor may be expensive, but serious illnesses always cost more than a “just-in-case” visit. Share in the comments your experiences with fighting the flu!

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Jeriann Watkins Ireland
Health Expert
Jeriann blogs about books, crafts, and pretty much everything else at She loves sharing her experiences with conventional and alternative health and wellness strategies. Her favorite way to manage her health is with weekly meal planning and supporting local producers for her food, body care, and house cleaning product needs.