In the News

Is it the Flu or Just a Cold? How Do you tell the difference?

Lehigh Valley, PA — ( December 8, 2016 )

The flu and the common cold are both contagious, respiratory illnesses caused by viruses that are not affected by antibiotics. Knowing the differences between the flu and a cold can help you or your loved ones avoid the hospital.

The first sign you may have more than the common cold is a sudden, fast onset of symptoms. The flu is notorious for its ability to suddenly make people feel like they’ve been hit by a truck. Colds, on the other hand, come on more slowly. According to WebMD.com, flu symptoms typically improve in 2 to 5 days but cold symptoms can last a week to 10 days.

Flu or Cold

Both viruses can develop into more serious conditions. A cold can lead to infections in the ears and sinuses but the flu can do much more damage. WebMD reports that flu complications include: bacterial pneumonia; dehydration; ear and sinus infections - especially in children. The flu can worsen long-term medical conditions, like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. You might also experience muscle inflammation (myositis), problems with your central nervous system, and heart problems such as heart attacks, inflammation of the organ (myocarditis), and inflammation of the sac around it (pericarditis).

“Every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. wind up in the hospital because of the flu. Tens of thousands die. Infants, the elderly and people with certain diseases or weakened immune systems are most at risk but a flu emergency can happen to anyone,” reports WebMD.com.

If you want to know for sure, see your physician. By taking a nasal or throat swab, your doctor can tell if you have the flu virus, usually within 30 minutes or less. If the test is positive for flu and symptoms started within the least 48 hours, your doctor may suggest antiviral medicine (ex. Tamiflu) to help speed recovery.

Symptoms at a Glance

COLD Symptoms

• Fever — Rare with a cold
• Aches — Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold
• Chills — Chills are uncommon with a cold
• Tiredness/Fatigue — Fairly mild with a cold
• Sudden Symptoms — Usually develop over a few days
• Coughing — A hacking, productive (mucus producing) cough is often present with a cold.
• Sneezing — Common
• Stuffy or Runny Nose — A common symptom of a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week.
• Sore Throat — Common symptom. A sore throat is pain and inflammation in the throat that usually comes with a cold.
• Chest Discomfort — Mild to moderate with a cold
• Headache — Fairly uncommon with a cold

FLU Symptoms

• Fever — Usually present with the flu. A temperature of 101° or higher for thereto four days is associated with the flu.
• Aches — Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.
• Chills — Chills are fairly common in most flu cases. Chills and shivering are a normal reaction to a cold environment, but unexplained chills can also be a sign of the flu.
• Tiredness/Fatigue — Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu. It’s normal to feel tired at the end of a long day or when you don’t get adequate sleep, but unexplained tiredness can be a sign of the flu. It can continue for weeks after other symptoms dissapate.
• Sudden Symptoms — The flu has a rapid onset with 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains
• Coughing — A dry, nonproductive cough that doesn’t produce mucus is usually present with the flu.
• Sneezing — Not as common, but can be present with the flu.
• Stuffy or Runny Nose — Can be present but is not as common.
• Sore Throat — Sore throat is not as common, but can be present with the flu
• Chest Discomfort — Often severe with the flue. Chest discomfort is pain or abnormal sensations that you feel anywhere along the front of your body between your neck and upper abdomen.
• Headache —Very common with the flu - it is present in 80 percent of flu cases.

Flu or Cold
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