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WakeMed Blogs

Flu or Cold?

November 09, 2011

You’re sick and you figure it’s probably just a cold so you don’t need to go see your doctor, right? Well, the flu and the common cold are both caused by viruses and they have similar symptoms. The flu is usually more severe and can cause death in certain vulnerable populations like the immunocompromised, elderly and young children.  Here are the symptoms of the common cold and of the flu so you can tell which illness you or your loved one is up against:

What’s the difference? :

Characteristic Flu Cold
Onset 3-6 hours of exposure Gradual over a few days
Fever Common – range 101 – 103 Less common – low grade possible
Chills Common Less Common
Chest Discomfort Common Less Common
Headache Common Less Common
Aches Severe Milder
Cough Dry Productive
Tiredness Extreme Less Intense
Stuffy Nose Less Common Common
Sore Throat Less Common Common
Sneeze Less Common Common

It is always a good idea to call your doctor if you exhibit two or more of the flu symptoms listed. And, if you are lucky enough not to be sick, remember your best defense against most illnesses is frequent hand washing.  For flu, everyone six months of age and older should also get extra protection with a flu vaccine.

More information about the flu can be found at http://flu.gov

Michele Roberts Casey, MD, Wake Specialty Physicians – Falls Point Medical Group