Is It Cold or Flu? How to Tell the Difference

| January 16, 2013

how to tell difference between flu and coldYou’re coughing, sneezing and generally feeling, well, icky. How do you know if what you have is just a garden variety cold or something a little more serious — such as the flu? DexKnows can help you find an area doctor. After all, it’s not easy to tell the difference between a cold and influenza. In fact, in the first few days of your illness, even your doctor probably won’t know without testing you for influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both the cold and the flu will make you cough and ache and feel tired.

However, while the flu and cold share symptoms, they’re actually caused by completely different viruses, according to the CDC. And flu symptoms are typically more severe and more likely to lead to complications such as pneumonia, according to the CDC.

It’s the flu if …

According to the Utah Department of Health, these are the signs it might be the flu:

  • No sneezing or sore throat and the illness coming on quickly are signs of the flu. With a cold, you’ll typically get sick over a few days, and you’ll be more likely to have a sore throat and a case of the ahh-choos.
  • A fever is much more common with the flu than with a cold, particularly one more than 100 degrees that lasts three or four days.
  • The flu has more intense symptoms. According to the CDC, those body aches, cough and exhaustion are typically more severe when you have the flu.
  • If you have a dry cough that isn’t productive, it could be the flu. Colds typically have mucus-producing coughs (yuck).
  • If you’re shivering and shaking with the chills, chances are it’s not a cold.
  • You have a headache and your chest is sore, which are both common flu symptoms.

Still not sure what you have? The best way to find out is to head to your doctor, who can perform a rapid flu test, which lets you know in 15 minutes if you really have the flu and even what strain you have, according to the CDCDexKnows can help you find local providers in your area.

Don’t spread it around

In the meantime, take precautions to avoid spreading your illness to others. Experts say that you can spread the flu when you cough, sneeze or even talk. Droplets infect others around you, or people can pick up the virus by touching surfaces where those droplets landed, according to the CDC. So if you’re sick, cough into your elbow or a tissue and keep your hands clean, so nobody else has to sit and wonder what it is you gave them — a cold or the flu.

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Category: Health & Fitness, Primary Care

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