Do I Have A Cold Or Flu?

How to tell if you have a cold or the flu.

• Health: How-To • Health: Medical
• Health: Tips & Tricks

Matt Anderson's Take
For many, it's hard to tell the difference between the common cold and influenza (aka, the flu). Read on to find out what each of these illnesses are and how to tell the difference between the two.

Difference Between Cold And Flu

Both the flu and common cold are respiratory illnesses but each is caused by a different virus. Both the flu and cold often have very similar symptoms which makes telling them apart difficult for some. In most cases, getting the flu is more serious than catching a cold since the symptoms are usually worse and can lead to more serious health problems like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and even hospitalization.

What Are Cold And Flu Symptoms

Cold and flu symptoms can be very similar, though flu symptoms are usually hit you much harder. Here are each of the most common symptoms for each type of illness.

Runny / Stuffed Up Nose
Most common when you have a cold but can occur with the flu as well.

Coughing is common with both but with the flu it's usually a dry cough. With a cold, you'll often cough up yellow and green goo. Yum!

Sneezing is most common with a cold but can occur with the flu as well.

Sore Throat
A sore throat is usually the sign of a cold but can sometimes occur with the flu as well.

If you're barfing, it's probably not from a cold but it could be a sign of the flu.

Achy Body
A cold can bring on some minor achy feelings but severe aches and pains all over is common with the flu.

A high fever isn't common with colds in adults but something to watch for in the young and elderly. With the flu, a fever is common regardless of age.

Freezing Cold / Burning Hot
If you find yourself freezing and shivering and/or hot and burning then this is a sign that you may have the flu since these symptoms are not common with a cold.

With a cold, you can usually feel the symptoms coming on over a few days. With the flu, you might feel fine and then hours later feel very sick.

So, Do I Have A Cold Or Flu?

Using the symptoms listed above is the best way to get an idea of what you have. The speed at which you got sick is often a good way to tell so if it came on quick it may be the flu.

Next up are looking at sneezing, sore throat, and stuffy/runny nose which are more common with a cold than the flu. Take your temperature and if you find you're higher than normal this is more often the sign of flu (at least in otherwise healthy adults). Feeling achy is common with both, but extreme aches and body pains and/or headaches could be the sign of the flu since these are less severe with colds.

When in doubt, consult your doctor. A test can be run (in the early days of getting the virus) to see if you have the flu or not. Since the flu can lead to other health complications (like pneumonia or bacterial infections) it's important to err on the side of caution. This is especially true during flu season.

How To Avoid Colds And The Flu

If you're at risk for getting the flu, you may want to consider a seasonal flu vaccine each year. As for that pesky common cold, there is no vaccine.

But in either case, good washing and cleanliness habits are the best way to avoid catching the virus. Always wash hands with soap after using the bathroom. Any time you come home, wash your hands before touching anything. Always wash hands before eating any meals. Get your kids in these habits as well.

Keeping your house clean by wiping down railings, light switches, cabinet door pulls, door knobs, TV remotes, cell phones, and on and on is very important. Try our Multi Purpose Cleaner for all of those.

Are you a nail biter? Then learn How To Stop Nail Biting right away. This is one of the easiest ways to get all sorts of illnesses. Lifestyle changes can also make a huge impact on your health an immune system. Now sure where to start? Then read A Healthy Lifestyle - Where Do You Start?.

If you do get sick make sure you stay home and keep yourself clean and away from others. Got a sick kid? Keep them out of school until they're better (be sure to also read Keeping a Sick Child on Track with School).
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