What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?
Roseanne Papoyan, Pharmacist
Los Angeles, CA
It’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between a cold and the flu based on symptoms alone because they are so similar, but there are some contrasts. Symptoms of a cold include a cough containing mucus, watery eyes, runny/stuffy nose, congestion, sneezing, postnasal drip, sore throat, low-grade fever and headaches.
A cold develops gradually, worsening within a matter of 2-3 days, and may last between 5-10 days. Symptoms of the flu can be abrupt and include severe body aches, headaches, chills, a high-grade fever, fatigue, dry cough, and in some cases, severe complications. The flu typically persists between 7-14 days or longer. Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing severe symptoms.
Diagnosing the flu may be as simple as getting a quick swab test. Such tests may be readily available at your doctor’s office or at your local pharmacy. The flu is highly contagious and, in some cases, may be deadly; over 5,000 people die yearly from complications of the flu. Persons with chronic disease(s) who develop the flu have a higher rate of developing complications. This is true for young children, senior citizens, pregnant women and persons with a weak immune system.
To aid in preventing the flu, make sure to get your annual flu shot. If you have a cold or the flu, prevent spreading to others by staying home, washing/sanitizing your hands, wearing a mask, etc. Generally, treatment of a cold or the flu includes just trying to alleviate symptoms. Many of the remedies needed can be found in the over-the-counter section of your local pharmacy. For persons with a higher risk of developing complications from the flu and those who live with and/or take care of them, it is imperative to talk to your doctor. You may need an anti-viral and other prescription medications to facilitate recovery.
The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent that of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat any health condition and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health professional.
December 1, 2018