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Home Symptoms of Flu Cold vs flu symptoms: How to tell the difference

Cold vs flu symptoms: How to tell the difference

Viruses affecting the upper respiratory system such as the cold, flu, and pneumonia strike annually. Now the swine flu adds another worry into the mix. Myths surround these illnesses, leading many to make poor decisions in their treatment choices. Is there really a difference in cold vs flu symptoms? How can this be determined?

Usually, upper respiratory virus outbreaks occur during the colder months, but that is not due to the change in outside temperature. Contrary to popular belief, just being cold does not lead to one catching a virus. The increase in colds and flus in winter months coincidences with the holiday season when people gather in large groups for celebrations. These party-goers can be packed together indoors for hours, loathe to leave and venture into the winter cold. By being in such close proximity to others, viruses can be traded as well as gifts. The stress of the season also weakens immune systems, as does being outside in cold weather for extended periods of time, but simply standing in the cold does not mean that the person will suffer cold vs flu symptoms.

A careful assessment of ones overall symptoms will help a doctor to determine if the person has cold vs flu symptoms. Generally, colds are milder than the flu. Very rarely does a cold come with a fever, but this is common with the flu. Along with the fever, flu sufferers experience body aches, headaches and chills, but these are almost unheard of with those infected by the common cold. The cough, seen in both the cold and flu, is dry in those with the flu and phegmy in those with colds. Symptoms of the flu appear quickly and often without notice, striking a person in 3 to 6 hours, but a cold can take several days of gradual development before the symptoms are fully felt.

Should someone have signs of a virus, especially with a fever, a trip to the doctor should be made. The physician will ask the patient about his cold vs flu symptoms. If a cold is the issue, there will be little the doctor can do aside from assigning bed rest and fluids until the person feels better. Antiviral medications have little affect on colds, and antibiotics do not work at all. Some doctors will give patients antibiotics if asked, but this only encourages drug-resistant bacteria to develop, and puts both the patient and society at risk.

Should the doctor determine that the cold vs flu symptoms of the patient are caused by the flu, the doctor will order a blood test to pinpoint the flu virus causing the illness. Should a flu be the cause, based upon the symptoms, antiviral medication can be given. These are often withheld for patients who might have complications from the flu, such as pneumonia. Symptoms of H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu are the same, and the only means to determine the difference is with this doctor-ordered blood test. Treatment is also the same for these two flu viruses: a course of antiviral medications, fluids, bed rest and isolation.

If in doubt about whether cold vs flu symptoms are felt, the patient should visit the doctor to get a proper diagnosis and medication, if needed.


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