Colds and the flu have an awful lot in common, so much so that it’s often hard to know the difference. Though they’re caused by different viruses, both are respiratory illnesses, and both can leave you feeling bad.
While many of the symptoms are the same, there are some key differences that will help you know which you are suffering from and how best to treat the condition.
Influenza (also known as flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
Fever or feeling feverish/ chills
Runny or stuffy nose Muscle or body aches Headaches Fatigue (tiredness) Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Most people recover in about 7-10 days. You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold by washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with sick people and by not touching your face with unwashed hands. Symptoms usually include: Sore throat
A key difference between the flu and a common cold is how quickly there is an onset of symptoms. Flu symptoms typically strike very quickly, while cold symptoms usually develop gradually.
Another clue is the time of year. Colds most often hit during the summer, but can occur anytime. Flu season typically runs from November through March, but can strike as early as October or as late as May.
Because symptoms of these two conditions are often so similar, we recommend seeing your doctor right away if you have concerns that you may be coming down with the flu. Early treatment can prevent the worsening of symptoms.
It’s also advisable to receive a flu shot. Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection. If you have any questions or concerns about receiving the vaccination this season, please consult your physician.
If you don’t have a family physician, the flu vaccine is available at several locations throughout Polk County, including all Floyd Urgent Care offices.
Tifani Kinard is the Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer at Polk Medical Center.