From it's Your Health
Americans get about 1 billion colds each year. Colds are passed on in two ways; by inhaling the cold virus from someone who has it, or by touching respiratory secretions (sneeze stuff for example) through hand to hand contact or a surface like a doorknob, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Washing your hands often when you are around those with colds is a highly effective way to stay well.
Flu can affect 20 to 50 percent of the population each year. It's very contagious and is mostly spread by direct person-to-person contact. A flu virus can linger in the air for three hours and in close quarters, like classrooms or work spaces, transmission is high.
Viruses cause both cold and flu. If a cold is incorrectly identified as flu, it's no disaster. A cold may sometimes lead to sinus or middle ear infections and these can be treated. But if the flu is wrongly identified as a bad cold, possible life-threatening flu problems like pneumonia may go unobserved.
Cold or flu? Here's how to tell.
Colds and flu strike most people in the fall and winter, but not because it's colder outside. Researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases believe that the cold weather makes us spend more time indoors, increasing the opportunity for the flu to spread. Also, the lower humidity during the colder months helps cold-causing viruses to thrive and may dry the lining of the nasal passages, making them more susceptible to infection.
Children get the most colds--six or eight a year. By contrast, adults average two to four a year, with a greater frequency in the parents of children. Adults over 60 usually suffer less than one cold a year, probably because they have built up a natural immunity.
What Not to Do
Aspirin and Children: Children and teenagers with symptoms of flu or chickenpox should not take aspirin or products containing aspirin or other salicylates. Use of these products in youth has been associated with Reye syndrome, a rare condition that can be fatal. Because cold symptoms can be similar to those of the flu, it's best not to give aspirin.
Strep Throat: See a doctor if you were exposed to strep or have any of these symptoms: fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen neck glands, difficulty breathing or swallowing, tonsils with pus, or severe pain that doesn't improve in a few days.
Antibiotics: Don't bother taking antibiotics to treat your flu or cold; antibiotics do not kill viruses, and they should be used only for bacterial complications. Overuse of antibiotics has become a very serious problem, leading to a resistance in disease-causing bacteria that may render antibiotics ineffective for certain conditions.