Differences Between Flu and Cold Symptoms: Is it the Flu or a Cold?

by on August 23rd, 2014
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Both the common cold and flu are viruses that produce uncomfortable sinus problems and body aches. Unlike the common cold, however, the flu can be treated with antiviral drugs if you see your doctor within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. If you’re feeling under the weather and wondering how long it will be until you’re better, knowing whether you have a cold or the flu can help you predict when you’ll feel better; the flu typically lasts much longer than a cold. Here is how to tell the difference between cold and flu symptoms:

Symptoms of Both
Both the common cold and flu can cause generalized body aches and a feeling of lethargy. The feelings are much more pronounced, however, with the flu. If you feel like there’s no way you could possibly get out of bed, it’s the flu. Both the common cold and the flu can cause chest congestion and sinus problems such as a runny nose and sore throat.

Symptoms of a Cold
The common cold most commonly affects the sinuses, so a runny nose, sinus congestion, frequent sneezing and sinus pressure are all common. Sometimes sinus pain can spread to the ears. The common cold can also cause a sinus infection or ear infection, but these symptoms are consequences of a cold, not symptoms of it. If your symptoms change, consult your doctor, who may be able to prescribe antibiotics. A low-grade fever is common with a cold, but fevers over 101 degrees typically indicate that the cold has turned into an infection.

Symptoms of the Flu
The flu almost always results in a fever, usually one that lasts at least a couple days. The sudden onset of a fever is indicative of the flu. Severe headaches and body aches, as well as stomach problems and severe coughing are also common. The symptoms of the flu tend to be spread throughout the body rather than concentrated in the sinuses. Extreme exhaustion is one of the most common symptoms of the flu and is frequently its earliest symptom. If you feel extremely tired and have a fever, see your doctor right away to treat the flu before it’s too late.

Sources:
The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book-Mayo Clinic
American College of Physicians Complete Home Medical Guide-American College of Physicians



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