Do You Have A Cold Or The Flu? Here’s How You Can Tell The Difference

With January 2019 in full swing, that means cold and flu season is also in full swing. Many people are coming down with nasty colds due to the drop in temperature and sometimes, depending on the severity of the cold, it can be hard to detect if it’s just the common cold or if you’ve come down with a case of the flu.

Thankfully, if you’re one of the many who received their flu shot, chances are you didn’t come down with the flu. While it’s still possible, it’s worth noting that there are some key differences in symptoms that can tell you right away if you should prepare for a cold… or prepare for the worst.

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The flu starts suddenly…not gradually

Usually, when you’re coming down with a cold, you feel it in your sinuses and throat before the actual onset. With the flu, it starts very abruptly with no symptoms leading up to it. With the flu, you also may develop a fever which is usually hovering around the 99 to 100 range.

In addition to a low-grade fever, you’ll experience extreme fatigue, congestion, coughing from postnasal drip, and even body aches.

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There are red flags that come with the flu

In most cases, the common cold is nothing to seriously worry about. However, when it comes to the flu, there are some red flags that you should be on the lookout for as it might require immediate medical care. At-risk groups for these red flags are children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65.

Pre-existing conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease, may all diminish the strength of the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off the flu. The best moment to see a doctor is the moment you catch yourself short of breath. Furthermore, trouble focusing or decreased mental alertness is also a red flag that should be treated with medical care.

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Flu shots are for everyone

Despite young children and senior citizens having a greater risk of additional complications with the flu, the flu shot is for everyone, not just them. It’s important to remember how dangerous the flu can be in comparison to the common cold. Dr. Matthew Zahn and Dr. Yul Ejnes have provided their insight into the statistics of the flu versus the common cold.

Zahn confirms that “each year we have tens of thousands of people die of flu.” Vaccines are typically 40 to 60% effective in preventing the worst case scenarios of hospitalization or death, which is always a possibility no matter what age you are.

“The reality is nothing is available to shorten the duration of a head cold,” says Ejnes, “Some folks have more luck with these OTC remedies than others,” Ejnes says.

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Check out the video below on the importance of getting your flu vaccination!


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