How To Spot The Difference Between a Cold and Flu

Cold and Flu Season is coming up quick.  In fact, there are already reported cases of the flu in the US.  The common cold and seasonal flu share many symptoms, but there are points of differentiation to help you identify which it is in order to seek proper treatment.

What Are Common Cold Symptoms?

  • Symptoms typically come on gradually
  • Common symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing and runny nose.
  • Can also include cough, mild headache and minor body aches.
  • Symptoms tend to last a week.
  • Over-the-counter medications are generally effective.

What Are Seasonal Flu Symptoms?

  • Symptoms usually come on suddenly and are more severe than a cold.
  • Common symptoms include a high-grade fever, headache, body aches and fatigue.
  • Can also include a dry cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.
  • Symptoms generally improve within two to five days but can last a week or longer.
  • Prescription anti-viral drugs can help decrease the severity and length of symptoms; call a doctor if you think your symptoms are worsening or if you have a condition such as asthma, diabetes or are pregnant.

When Should You Go To The Doctor?

Many people visit the doctor even when they do not need a doctor’s expertise to diagnose and treat their symptoms. The next time you or someone in your family has a cold or experience flu-like symptoms (such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough, dizziness, fever or muscle aches), it may be wise to try some home remedies before making that expensive visit to the doctor.

Before you go to the doctor, try these home remedies:

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms such as a headache, muscle aches and fever.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Use a humidifier or take a hot shower to relieve a headache, cough or congestion.
  • Place a warm washcloth over your eyes to ease sinus pressure and congestion.

Healthy Hints To Prevent Colds and Flu

cold and flu prevention

An ounce of prevention goes a long way in keeping the cold and flu bug away!

  • Wash your hands often and refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Try to avoid contact with sick people.
  • Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly, making it a part of your family’s daily routine!
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might be contaminated.
  • The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.

The CDC has other great tips on seasonal flu prevention.

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