Family Health, Your Health Tamar Raucher | 6 years ago

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

The cold versus flu debate is one that rages in households every fall. Since both illnesses have similar symptoms, it’s easy to understand why people get confused.

“The symptoms are certainly comparable,” says Gayle Tignor, PA-C, part of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Virtual Visit. “However, while you might have a cold many times throughout the year, you’ll typically only get the flu every few years or so.”

How to Tell If You Have a Cold

The biggest indicator that you’re suffering from a cold is if your symptoms are mostly in your nose. The three key signs of a cold shouldn’t come as a surprise:
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal stuffiness
A cold can also be accompanied by a fever of 100 or 101 degrees or slight scratchiness in the back of your throat. Length of time matters, too: a cold typically lasts about a week.

How to Tell If You Have the Flu

The flu is definitely not limited to just the nose. When the flu hits, you’ll typically feel it all over. According to Tignor, the onset of symptoms is swift, and usually starts with a high-grade fever between 102 and 106 degrees (keep in mind children will usually have higher fevers than adults). Additional symptoms include:
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue (often extreme)
  • Dizziness
  • Sneezing
  • Dry, hacking cough
While the symptoms of the flu are more severe, they still last roughly as long as a cold – about 7 to 10 days. But many people experience another stretch of fatigue and fever at the tail end of that timeframe. The flu is extremely contagious, so it’s easily passed from one person to another. Since the virus exists in the tiny droplets emitted from coughs or sneezes, you’ll also contract the flu if you touch something with the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes afterwards. Avoiding the flu is possible if you take a few simple precautions. “Most patients should consider getting a flu shot,” says Tignor. “But frequently washing your hands or using hand sanitizer during flu season is the best way to avoid it.”   Interested in a Flu Shot? If you’re interested in getting a flu shot, or have questions about getting one, the primary care doctors at Carolinas HealthCare System can help. Call 844-881-2180 or complete an online appointment request form to find a doctor near you, or stop by one of our convenient CMC Rx pharmacies.