With a headache and a running nose, it can be hard to identify if you have a common cold or a seasonal flu. Both the flu and cold are common respiratory problems that affect the nasal cavity and are caused by different viruses. Since colds and flu have similar symptoms, it can be hard to judge which one you have based on the symptoms alone. However, it is essential that you learn how to spot the difference between the two because they have different treatments. Typically, a flu is far worse than a cold and may warrant a visit to the doctor and prescribed medication. Here are a few ways you can tell the difference between the two:
Both cold and flu have similar symptoms, but the onset of each symptom can vary depending on the severity. Here are the major symptoms you need to be on the lookout for:
- Fever- One of the first symptoms of the flu and a cold is a fever. If you have a cold, it is likely that you have a slight temperature which will usually subside without any medication. But if you have the flu, the fever is higher, usually in the range of 100-102 degrees F especially for young children. A fever associated with the flu requires treatment.
- Headache- When you have a cold or flu, you’re likely to contract a headache as well. If you have a common cold, the headache is usually mild and only lasts a few hours but in the case of the flu, the headache lasts longer, and you may need to take a painkiller.
- Body pain- Both colds and flu bring with them some body pain in the form of headache, back pain or just general aches around the body. However, the severity of the pain can differ depending on the health problem. In the case of a cold, you may experience slight body pain and even this is a rare occurrence. If you have the flu, you may suffer from severe body pain and your doctor might prescribe medication for it.
- Fatigue- When you have a cold, chances are you face a certain amount of fatigue. For a common cold, you may experience fatigue that may only last a couple of hours. But for the flu, fatigue is more common and lasts much longer, usually 2-3 weeks and can leave you feeling tired and moody
- Runny nose- A common cold is defined by a runny nose. Hence, if you do have a cold, your nose will be runny and stuffy. The best treatment for a cold is to blow your nose until all the runny mucus is out of your system. A runny nose, however, is not a symptom of the flu. It is, in fact, a very rare occurrence.
- Sneezing- A runny nose invariably leads to a sneezing fit. So, if you do have a cold, there is a high probability that you will be sneezing quite often. This can get more severe as the cold progresses. However, if you have the flu, you will not be sneezing as much since it is not a common symptom.
- Sore throat- A sore throat is a secondary symptom of a cold, so if you do experience a cold, there is a plausible chance that you will have a sore throat as well. If you have a cold and a sore throat at the same time, you may require medication to ease the symptoms. But, in the case of the flu, a sore throat is a rare occurrence.
- Cough- A sore throat may also result in a cough, but this is not always the case. Since a sore throat is more common if you have a cold, the chances of having a cough are mild to moderate. But in the case of the flu, a cough is a major symptom and more often than not, you may experience a severe cough that requires medication.
Since the symptoms for the flu can be far worse than a common cold, the treatment for each can also vary significantly. If you have a cold with a blocked or stuffy nose, the doctor can prescribe a decongestant in the form of a nasal spray or nose drops. This can temporarily alleviate the symptoms of a cold. If you experience other symptoms like body aches or a fever, the doctor might prescribe pain-killers and antibiotics as well.
If you have the flu, you may require more medication to treat the symptoms. In addition to decongestants, pain-killers and over the counter medication, you might also be given antiviral medication to treat the flu. It is recommended that you visit the doctor if you experience any symptoms that point towards the flu.
Although, a cold and the flu have common symptoms, the degree of severity can vary in each. If you experience any of these symptoms you need to monitor your body to identify whether it is the flu or a cold. This can help you treat the symptoms in the best possible way.
It is also recommended that you visit a doctor who can help you take the best course of action. The doctor may also suggest changes you can make to your existing lifestyle based on your test results. Neuberg Diagnostics is a world-class diagnostic lab that offers numerous preventive health check-up packages to suit your specific needs.