Cold and flu symptoms are similar to many of us. A cold usually starts with a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing or sore throat. Both can last for 7-10 days or more. The symptoms are common and hard to tell apart.
The flu is worse than a regular cold and more likely to cause complications that require an immediate visit to doctor, medications or hospitalization. Here are some basic guidelines for telling the difference between cold and flu symptoms, and what to do if you have either one of these infections.
Spot the Difference Between Cold or Flu
Viruses cause colds/flu and both are respiratory infections. The simplest way to tell the difference is by looking at the symptoms.
Cold symptoms present as:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Headache or body aches
- Mild tiredness
Flu symptoms can include:
- Dry, hacking cough
- Moderate to high fever, although not everyone with the flu will run a fever
- Sore throat
- Severe muscle or body aches
- Stuffy and runny nose
- Severe fatigue that may last up to two weeks
- Nausea and vomiting, as well as diarrhea (most common in children)
Use your symptoms as a guide to figure out which condition you have. If you think you might have the flu, see your doctor get tested within the first 48 hours.
Self-Care for Cold or Flu
Getting plenty of rest and fluids is the first thing you can do to speed your recovery. It is best to avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, and instead focus on water, juice, and soup. Stay in bed, keep contact with household members to a minimum, and do not go out in public unless necessary.
How Can I Avoid Getting the Flu or a Cold?
Good personal hygiene is important for preventing illness. Touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with the virus provides an easy way in. Coughing and sneezing sends the virus into the air.
Using tissues, covering your mouth with the crook of your elbow, or even using a mask can reduce the spread of the virus. Getting vaccinated for the flu is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community against the virus.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
Unless you are allergic to chicken eggs or had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past, everyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated.
The best way to protect against the flu is by having an annual vaccination, as this helps the body to build up the immune system so that it can fight off the virus more quickly.
The flu vaccine is recommended during pregnancy as it has been proven safe, but we recommend consulting your personal physician to determine your personal risk before taking any medication. If flu occurs during pregnancy, it can have serious complications for the unborn child and the mother. This is an example of when to visit the ER, especially when fever is present.
To avoid picking up the flu virus, wash your hands often with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. Try to stay away from anyone who has the flu or flu-like symptoms.
It’s important to adopt healthy habits to keep cold and flu germs at bay. You should always make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, exercise, and manage your stress during cold and flu season and beyond.
When Should I Get a Flu Shot?
This year, you can expect flu season to hit around the same time as it does most other years, according to the CDC. The flu is unpredictable, but it typically thrives in the colder months. For the most accurate information available, Q&A and recommendations, check this page by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and educate yourself to keep your family healthy and safe during flu season.
As parents and caregivers, we want to ensure our families have the very best choice for emergency healthcare. We are standing by to take care of you during flu season. We even have a pediatric to provide comfort and care to our littlest patients. Parents can be sure their child will be treated as a VIP at Kingwood Emergency Hospital. No one wants to wait for hours in an ER with the flu. We are open 24/7, 365 days with little to no wait. We are a full-service hospital and have patient beds should you need to be admitted for further observation. Come see our friendly doctors and nurses and see how different we are!