Have you ever woken up in the morning with a runny nose and sore throat, then later in the day you start to feel achy and feverish? You might ask yourself “do I have the flu or is it just a cold virus”?
Peak flu season in the U.S. runs from late November through March and because colds and flu share so many common symptoms and are both upper respiratory illnesses, it is often difficult to tell the difference.
Cold symptoms usually start with a sore throat for the first few days, followed by a runny nose, congestion, and cough. These symptoms may continue for 4-5 days. Fever is uncommon in adults, however, children may often have a cold with fever but it is often low. Sneezing is common with the cold and sometimes you may have a little fatigue and chest discomfort but headaches are rare with common colds. Some complications of the common cold are sinus infections and middle ear infections.
Flu symptoms tend to come on suddenly, fever (100-102 degrees, sometimes higher) with severe body aches, chills, headache and severe cough. Sometimes you may have vomiting or diarrhea. The symptoms will usually improve over 2 -5 days for normal, healthy individuals but you may feel weak for another 7-10 days. Flu can pose a serious threat to elderly, the very young and those who are immune compromised or have heart or lung problems. One very serious complication of the flu is pneumonia, which can be life threatening for some individuals.
You might need to see a doctor if you think you have the flu and/or you are experiencing difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, persistent vomiting, confusion or severe headache not associated with fever.
The very best prevention measures to keep healthy this flu and cold season is to wash your hands often. Avoid close contact with someone who has the cold or flu and get the annual flu vaccine as a preventative. Although not 100% effective, often people who have had the vaccine and get the flu, will have a much milder case.
Please stay home from work and school if you think you are having symptoms of the flu so you will be less likely to transmit it to someone else.
For more information on the cold vs. the flu visit CDC.gov/flu or visit webmd.com
Teenager with common cold. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 22 Oct 2018.
quest.eb.com/search/132_1573062/1/132_1573062/cite. Accessed 28 Nov 2018.