Although they’re both caused by viruses, the flu and the common cold are not the same thing. Cold symptoms can result from a variety of common viruses, while the flu is caused by the influenza virus. Likewise, cold symptoms are typically milder than flu symptoms and abate sooner. To better assess what you’re suffering from, consider the following:
The flu will…
Usually cause all or most of the typical symptoms of a cold, including sore throat, a runny nose and a cough. In addition to these, however, you’re likely to experience muscle aches, fatigue, chills and tightness of the chest. You’ll also usually have a fever over 101F and feel especially lethargic for several days.
The common cold will…
Cause symptoms that remain predominantly above the neck. You might run a fever and experience body aches, but these will be much less severe that with influenza. Many people are able to work or perform daily duties even when they have a cold. On the other hand, the flu usually leaves people bedridden for the most part.
What to Do
If you have a cold or flu, get the facts on some common remedies here. For a typical cold, you can relieve symptoms by using over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines and decongestions, which can make you feel better while you’re getting well. If you have the flu, on the other hand, quickly visit your healthcare provider for treatment with prescription-only anti-viral medications, such as Relenza and Tamiflu. When taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, these medications can hasten recovery, reduce the severity of symptoms and drastically decrease the chances of complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
You should also see a doctor if you:
- Experience worsening symptoms
- Have trouble breathing
- Suffer from dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea
- Experience a recurring fever
- Have a fever that lasts longer than three days
- Experience wheezing
- Have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, COPD, asthma, heart disease or HIV/AIDS
While many view the flu as a minor issue, it can actually lead to serious complications; so be sure to seek medical care if you show any troubling symptoms.