Q: How do I tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
This is a great question! The common cold and influenza are both caused by viruses, and they have very similar symptoms. Colds happen any time of year, but influenza is most commonly seen in the autumn and winter months, AKA “flu season.”
With a cold or the flu, you’ll have a sore throat, stuffy/runny nose, chest congestion, cough, and feel achy and tired. The two main differences are fever and extreme exhaustion. While you may run a low-grade fever with a cold for a short time, a flu fever is higher, usually from 100-102 degrees and it lasts 3-4 days. Fevers tend to spike higher in small children, so be sure to monitor them closely. You’ll feel generally rundown with a cold, while the flu tends to hit you like the proverbial ton of bricks. You’ll just want to sleep. Some flu viruses also cause vomiting and diarrhea, but thankfully, they are rare.
We all know the basic rules to prevent spreading germs, but it never hurts to review them, especially during cold and flu season. Number one: avoid close contact with sick people. If you’re sick, don’t go to work or school. STAY AT HOME so you don’t expose others. If you have flu-like symptoms including a fever, the CDC recommends that you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever subsides to minimize risk to others. Your fever should be gone naturally, not because you’ve suppressed it with medication.
Other preventive measures: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw it in the trash and wash again. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Regularly clean and disinfect objects like doorknobs, faucets, steering wheels, etc. Get a flu shot – it helps protect you from the seasonal flu. If you do have the flu, see your doctor. There are anti-viral drugs that can help lessen the severity of symptoms and speed your recovery time. If your symptoms suddenly worsen, see a doctor immediately.
Need to get your flu shot? Call 480.619.4097 for an appointment.