Common Cold vs The Flu

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sick people

Flu season is in full swing. The flu attacks more than 3 million people each year. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. These symptoms are also seen in patients with the common cold. This makes it difficult to differentiate between the two.

While the two are very similar, there are ways to tell them apart. It’s important to know which condition you have so it can be treated properly. The physicians at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers are here to help you determine if you have the flu or just a cold.

Symptom Onset

Cold symptoms are usually brought on gradually. You might have a runny nose for several days before experiencing a sore throat and mild chest discomfort. Symptoms might last for a few days to a week. A cold will usually go away on its own, but there are some decongestants and cold medicines that can help ease the symptoms faster.

In contrast, flu symptoms are brought on abruptly. Within 24 hours, you can feel all the symptoms at once. They include a headache, muscles aches, fatigue, and a fever. Symptoms last for 7 to 10 days. The flu is contagious within the first 24 hours and people can infect others up to 7 days after becoming sick.

Severity of Symptoms

Symptoms of the common cold are usually mild. However, in some cases, a fever is present. When this happens, it’s recommended to visit a doctor. The condition can be more severe in small children whose immune systems aren’t fully developed, though most cases of a cold are nothing to worry about. You will feel better in a few days or a week.

On the other hand, the flu can be very severe. It has led to more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu results in about 56,000 deaths every year. If your flu symptoms last more than a couple of weeks, you should seek medical attention to make sure the condition doesn’t become more severe.

Other Health Complications

While the common cold doesn’t usually result in serious health problems, the flu can lead to more severe conditions such as pneumonia and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. The flu can also make chronic medical problems worse. For instance, people with asthma can experience an asthma attack when they have the flu. People who are 65 years of age or older and children younger than 2 are more at risk of developing further complications from the flu.

Treatment and Prevention

Cold symptoms don’t require much treatment. Some fluids and rest will have you feeling better in no time. However, you can take measures to prevent it. This means washing your hands often, taking vitamins, and avoiding sick people at work or school.

If necessary, some antibiotics can treat your flu symptoms. You may also need anti-inflammatory medications to help you feel better. To prevent the flu, it’s essential to get a yearly flu vaccine. Our physicians at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers can administer your vaccine at one of our six locations in Manhattan and Queens. Get your vaccine to fight this year’s flu season.

We are available six days a week to administer your flu shot. Call (212) 686-4448 to book your appointment or visit one of our offices to get your vaccine the same day.

Meet The Physician Collaborator

Dr. Tehila Saadia is a physician specializing in both Pediatric and Adult Allergy & Immunology. She treats a wide variety of allergic and immunologic disorders, with a special interest in food allergies, contact dermatitis and urticaria (hives). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Saadia by calling or visiting one of our six locations.