Is it a Cold or the Flu?

flu or cold

Uh-oh! It’s Monday morning and your alarm is blaring in your ear telling you that the real world is calling. Monday mornings are hard enough, but waking up this morning something is different. Waking up is that much more difficult, and you are just feeling a little off. Then you recall that a few people at your office are off work with the flu. Oh no! Could this be what you have? Although many symptoms of the common cold and the flu are similar, there are slight differences between the two that can help with correct treatment, and help any sufferer get better quicker.

Symptoms of the Cold

A common cold virus, no matter how terrible it may feel, is not a serious illness. You may have to walk around with a tissue box and rub your nose raw for a few days, but ultimately not fatal. However, while sick with the cold, your immune system is compromised which can make way for other infections. These can make you very sick.

So, what are the symptoms of a common cold?

  • Watery nasal discharge
  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches
  • Mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy/malaise (just not feeling well)
  • Low grade fever

These are just a few of the symptoms that you should be looking for when you are trying to determine if you have a cold. As a virus, there is really no cure out there, and no matter what anyone tells you antibiotics do NOTHING for a virus. There are, however, medications that can be taken that lessen the symptoms and allow you to function without looking like a complete zombie. The best treatment at this point is to sleep, drink lots of fluids, and eat well.

There is a point when it’s time to call the doctor and get some antibiotics on board. As previously mentioned, when your body is combating a virus like the flu it is very susceptible to secondary infections. The symptoms to watch for are slight extensions of the symptoms that you are already dealing with. When they progress to this point, it’s time to call a doctor.

  • Severe sore throat
  • Sinus pain
  • Long-lasting fever (more than five days as an adult, two days as a child)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up phlegm
  • Green coloured mucous

These are some of the symptoms of much more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis, strep throat, and the list goes on and on. Basically, after a few days if you’re not feeling any better, go see your doctor!

Symptoms of the Flu

The flu is a much more serious virus than the cold. Lots of people are hospitalized and die every year of the flu. However, for the average person with a strong immune system the flu can be easily overcome. That is, if it is treated correctly.

So, how do you know if you have a cold or the flu? Below are some common symptoms of the flu:

  • Severe muscle and joint aches
  • Weakness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Watery, painful eyes
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

As you can see, many of these symptoms are similar to that of the cold, but they are far more severe. While a cold is usually something that people can fight through, the flu is highly likely to knock you on your butt for the foreseeable future. The flu is also highly contagious, so it’s really better for everyone if you stay home until you are feeling better. If you happen to come in contact with someone who is immuno-compromised while you are still contagious, you run the risk of making them very sick.

As a serious virus, there are also certain symptoms that should send you running to the doctor (or the hospital):

  • Sudden dizziness
  • Extreme nausea or vomiting/diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in your chest or stomach

A basic rule of thumb for when it’s time to go to the hospital is when you can’t keep anything down. The worst possible thing for the flu virus is dehydration. This is when people really get sick.

Much like the cold, there is no actual cure for the flu virus. There are anti-virals that can be taken that have been shown to decrease symptoms and duration of the flu if they are taken early enough, however supportive care is really all that can be done. When you think you have the flu, much like the cold, stay home, sleep, drink plenty of fluids (especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea), and eat bland food (think saltines). Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, are great fluids as they not only keep you hydrated, but also replace electrolytes that can be lost during a fever, with vomiting, or with diarrhea.

In conclusion…

Although they have the same basic symptoms and treatments, it is always a good idea to know exactly what is going on with your body, and how to best care for it. So just remember, when you wake up and you’re feeling very sick, STAY HOME! The more rest you get allows your body to recuperate, and by not going out in public while contagious you are helping everyone else stay healthy too.

Do you have a particularly horrific cold or flu story, or want to recommend a specific product? Let us know below!

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