Now that we’re well into the month of October, cold and flu season is officially here. When you first become ill, it may be difficult to tell if you’re suffering from the cold or the flu. There are some key differences to look out for. The flu can require medical treatment and even lead to hospitalization if it isn’t treated properly. Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms you’ll notice with the cold and the flu.
The Common Cold
The common cold typically starts with a mild sore throat. As the sore throat clears up, you’ll begin to feel congested or have a runny nose which will likely lead to a cough. Most adults don’t develop a fever with a cold, but this is possible in children. A cold typically only lasts a week, but you’re only contagious during the first three days of the illness. If your cold symptoms don’t improve within a week, you should consult your physician to determine if you developed a bacterial sinus infection while you were sick.
While cold symptoms come on gradually, the flu symptoms will hit you out of nowhere. You’ll likely wake up feeling miserable with sore muscles, a headache, fever, congestion, cough, and fever. Certain strains of the flu will cause vomiting and diarrhea as well. If you suspect you have the flu, you should limit activities outside the home to avoid spreading the illness to others. If your flu symptoms resolve within a week or so, you may not need to visit a doctor. If your symptoms persist or you develop a high fever, it’s time to seek medical treatment. Many people become hospitalized due to dehydration during the flu so try to drink plenty of fluids!
The best treatment for the cold and flu is prevention.
- To prevent spreading an illness to those around you it’s a good idea to isolate yourself when you notice symptoms. This means taking a day or two off from work or school.
- Regular and thorough hand washing will help protect you from catching the cold or flu.
- Encouraging co-workers and peers to go home if they’re suffering from symptoms can assist in prevention.
- And, be sure to sneeze or cough into your elbow, not into your hand.
- Finally, make sure to get an annual flu shot. A flu shot before the beginning of flu season reduces your chances of catching the flu by over 60%.
You may not always be able to avoid illness, but you can greatly reduce your risk!