When Is a Cold the Flu?

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When you are trying to decide if you have a cold or the flu, keep this in mind: there is a difference between getting poked and punched. A punch lingers. A punch aches throughout your body. A punch makes you call your momma, demand soup, hugs and a forehead rag — while a poke elicits discomfort, a wince. In terms of severity, often a cold is a setback and the flu is a knockout. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a cold seriously. You should always be vigilant when it comes to your health. But we want you to trust your ability to feel changes in your symptoms; we want you to focus on recognizing when symptoms progress, so you can seek help. There are very specific differences between a cold and the flu, and we’ll go through those below. 

Recognize the differences 

Often, when you are trying to determine if you have a cold or the flu, you’re talking about severity and duration of symptoms. This relates to our poke-or-punch chat above. You know when you feel worse than “under the weather.” Also, you can look for specific symptoms to determine if you have a cold or the flu.

Use the chart below as a guide, keeping in mind that every case is different.

Symptom

Cold

Flu

Fever

Mild

Severe

Aches

Sometimes

Usually

Headache

Sometimes

Usually

Fatigue

Sometimes

Usually

Runny nose

Usually

Sometimes

Sneezing

Usually

Sometimes

Sore throat

Usually

Sometimes

Cough

Mild

Severe 

You will also see a difference in how cold and flu symptoms start and how long they linger. Cold symptoms often come on gradually and may last for a few days. Flu symptoms will come on more quickly and can make you feel poorly for a week or more.

Another difference between a cold and the flu is what time of year you get sick. Any number of infections may cause a cold any time of year. The flu is more seasonal. That’s why it is so important to get a flu shot each year

Treating the cold or flu 

First, there are plenty of home remedies to try. We mentioned momma’s soup and a wet rag on your forehead. These are a couple traditional at-home fixes that might make you feel more comfortable. Other ways to treat the cold and flu without medicine include properly hydrating, gargling with salt water and getting lots of rest. If you want to treat your illness at home, we stress getting extra sleep and believe in the healing power of your favorite silly comedy

Another option is taking over-the-counter medicines. Decongestants and antihistamines may relieve some of your symptoms; pain relievers may help you bring down a fever; and a cough suppressant may, well, suppress your cough. 

We always recommend that you speak with a healthcare professional if you are sick. At FastMed, we can help you lessen your symptoms and prevent illness from spreading to other members of your household. We may even be able to get you back on your feet quicker, as a healthcare professional can write a prescription for an antiviral medication.

FastMed is here when life is unpredictable 

With the changing seasons comes the flu, and the flu is often unpredictable. Kids bring it home from school, a colleague comes to work ill, or someone sneezes in the bread aisle at the grocery store, and next thing you know everyone in your home is sick. It can happen on the weekends, and holidays are no sickness shield. That’s why FastMed is open every day of the year. We are your resource all flu season long, should you or your children need medical attention. 

Sure, you can weather symptoms from the comfort of home and wish the flu away. But as quickly as we can have you back in bed, why not let us lessen the impact of the flu’s hefty punch? 

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