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Is it a Cold or the Flu? 5 Ways to Know

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November 30, 2017

You’ve come down with something but you’re not sure what. ‘Tis the season for sniffles and coughs, after all. While many people conclude they have a bad cold when they’re laid low, it’s important to determine if its the cold or the flu you’re suffering from. 

By identifying the source of your illness, you’ll be better able to come up with a strategy for beating it and getting back on your feet as quickly as possible. Here are some ways to determine whether you’re suffering from the common cold or influenza.

Check for Fever

Are you feeling feverish and sweaty? If so, it’s time to reach for the thermometer and get a reading. This is a big factor in determining what’s going on.

People will rarely have a fever while fighting a cold, but it’s a pretty common symptom of influenza. According to WebMD, a fever between 100-102 degrees may last three to four days and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) advise that flu sufferers may also experience chills.

Does Your Head and/or Throat Hurt?

When it comes to headaches, you might have discomfort with a cold, but influenza often triggers intense pain, so if your head is pounding, the flu is probably the culprit.

A sore throat is relatively common in both colds and flu, but it is another symptom that tends to be milder when associated with a cold.

Coughing, Sneezing, and Stuffy Nose

The cold virus will typically bring on a mild to moderate hacking cough which can be a serious annoyance, but if you’ve got the flu, you may notice that your coughing fits are more frequent and severe.

On the other hand, sneezing and a stuffy nose tend to be signs of a cold.

Body Aches and Fatigue

More than anything else, how your body feels tends to be the best indicator of what’s going on. People who have a cold usually feel run down and slightly achy. Someone fighting the flu will typically have intense body and muscle aches and severe fatigue. These symptoms can last for two to three weeks and can make it difficult to return to your usual routines. The best thing you can do is take it easy while your body recovers.

If you do find yourself fighting influenza, stay home as much as you can, rest, and see a medical professional if your symptoms worsen. Flu treatments, such as Tamiflu, are most effective if taken within 24 to 48 hours of developing the illness.

Focus on Prevention

During this time of year, double down your hand washing efforts and avoid people who are sick. The CDC recommends that everyone get an annual  flu shot to help prevent illness. Catching a virus may not be a big deal to you, but you risk passing it on to someone with a compromised immune system or other conditions that make them vulnerable to serious complications.

Practice prevention by getting rest and exercise, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced, nutritious diet. These good habits will help you stay healthy all year long!  

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