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Flu Versus Cold: What Are the Early Symptoms?

Flu Versus Cold: What Are the Early Symptoms?

Flu season is here, and it typically hits its peak between December and February. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot or if you think you may have the flu even after getting the shot, it can be hard to tell if you have the flu or just the common cold.

How do you get the flu?

Transmission of the flu from one person to another is through respiratory particles, which are typically spread from sneezing or coughing.

How do you know if you have the flu?

Flu symptoms include:

  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion

These symptoms are usually abrupt but typically start with the first three (body aches, fever and chills) followed by cough, sore throat and congestion. If flu symptoms arise, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor can prescribe Tamiflu to alleviate your symptoms.

What about the cold?

For the "common cold" symptoms include:

  • Sore/scratchy throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fever (not always, but it’s possible)

There is no treatment which can cure a common cold, so medicine is usually directed to treat the symptoms.

What next?

Both the flu and the cold are caused by viruses and can present very similarly, as you can tell from the list of symptoms. However, cold symptoms are usually milder and not associated with complications such as pneumonia/hospitalizations as can be seen with the flu.

After getting the flu or the cold and starting treatment, remember to wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing to help limit spreading the virus to others. Proper hydration and rest will help you recover as well. Although there isn't medicine to cure the viruses, if you have multiple medical problems, your doctor may recommend starting antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections.

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