Cold or Flu?

Living in the brutal atmosphere of Minnesota, you have most likely experienced a cold.  But how many times have you dismissed your symptoms as “just a cold,” without really knowing what you have?  Knowing the difference between the cold and the flu, two common bugs that are common in the winter, can help speed up recovery.

The first question you should ask yourself is whether or not you have a fever.  Fevers are usually present with the flu, but are rare with colds.

Next, chills, headaches, body aches, pains, chest discomfort, fatigue and weakness are ordinary flu symptoms.  On the other hand, these symptoms are typically either mild or non-existent for the cold.  You probably have a cold if you are constantly sneezing, and your throat is sore.

For both viruses, coughs are normal.  However, hacking and mucus-producing coughs are symptoms of the cold, and non-mucus producing coughs are symptoms of the flu.

A common cold usually starts from being caught by another person who is infected with the virus.  This occurs from touching a contaminated surface such as a computer keyboard, doorknob, or eating utensil, and then touching your nose or mouth.  Colds can also be caught from inhaling the discharge of a sneeze that someone has left in the air.  Complications that can arise from the cold include sinus infections, ear infections, asthma and bronchitis.  To treat the cold, you can use antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers.  To prevent the cold, wash your hands often with soap and water.  Also make sure to avoid close contact with anyone with a cold.

According to the Mayo Clinic in this article, “Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth.”  Complications that can arise from the flu include sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia (which worsens chronic conditions).  Unfortunately, the flu can be life-threatening.  These kinds of complications are more likely in the elderly, those with chronic conditions, young children and pregnant women.  To treat the flu, you should see your doctor to get antiviral medications.  The flu can be prevented by washing your hands often with soap and water, annual vaccinations, and antiviral medications.

So the next time you start to get that tickle in your throat and that dreaded cough, it would be a good idea to look into it a little more.