The common cold and flu share a lot of the same symptoms, including a runny nose, coughing and sore throat. However, certain signs can help you separate the two and allow you to accurately determine what exactly you are suffering from, which can ultimately help you seek the proper treatment for the illness.
Since the common cold and the flu are entirely separate illnesses, it is essential to have an understanding of the different symptoms, treatment and prognosis to ensure the illness is not neglected of proper care. While prevention is the best strategy for dealing with the common cold or flu, it is not always an option, which means medical assistance may be in order if the symptoms begin to show themselves.
If you or your child begin to suffer from the early signs and symptoms of a common cold or flu, be sure to take prompt action and come in for treatment. By doing so, you can ensure a quick and effective treatment that will speed along recovery, allowing you to get back to doing the things you love in no time. Here at our urgent care facility, we have the staff and resources needed to help you on your path back to full health.
Facts from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Over 200 viruses cause the common cold.
- You can get a cold at any point throughout the year. Cold weather does not cause a cold or the flu.
- Antibiotics do not treat colds.
- Contrary to popular belief, colds cannot progress into the flu.
- Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by flu droplets made when other people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk.
- People with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after the illness begins.
- Although some are at a higher risk of developing the flu, it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or current level of health.
- It is difficult to diagnose the flu from other respiratory illness based on the symptoms.
Questions to Ask Your Urgent Care Provider
- What over-the-counter medication can I take to help reduce my cold and flu symptoms?
- Is there anything I can do other than take a flu shot to help prevent getting the flu?
- What all testing procedures did you do to diagnose me?
- How long does it take to recover from the common cold or flu?
- Is there anything I can do besides rest to help speed up the recovery process?
- What do I need to do if my symptoms do not improve?
- Are my symptoms usual for the average common cold or flu? Are they more severe?
- What measures can I take to make sure others around me do not pick up the flu as well?
- What are the treatment options available to me?
- What all activities do I need to stop doing while I recover?
- Is there anything I can do not to be so uncomfortable while I sleep?
- What is the difference between influenza A, B and C?
The Differences Between a Cold and Flu
It is well known that cold symptoms and flu symptoms similarly present themselves. Due to this, many individuals confuse their signs for the wrong thing. For instance, an individual who suffers from a runny nose, constant coughing and a sore throat may assume that they have the flu. However, there is a high likelihood that they only have a common cold, especially if there is not a fever present with the other symptoms.
If your symptoms are concerning, it is essential to seek medical assistance to ensure the diagnosis is accurate because the prognosis is different for a common cold and the flu. In most cases, the flu is much more severe than a common cold, which means it should be treated with an extra sense of urgency. Additionally, it is important to remember that they are entirely separate illnesses. However, the common cold can make you more vulnerable to a flu infection.
Along with a different path to recovery, there are sure signs and symptoms that are different as well. While it is true that the common cold and the flu share a list of similar symptoms (see below), there are specific symptoms, such as a fever, that is much more prominent when someone has the flu, and vice versa. By understanding the different signs and symptoms of each, it is much easier to diagnose accurately, which gives you the ability to seek proper treatment.
With that said, it can at times be challenging to tell the difference between the common cold and the flu, especially if it is still in the early stages. If you are unsure about which one you or your child are suffering from, be sure to visit us at our urgent care facility and allow us to diagnose your illness accurately and recommend a treatment to help you recover.
Common Cold Symptoms and Treatment
The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat that can be the result of over 200 different viruses, although the most common form of the common cold is the rhinovirus. The common cold is very contagious and can be spread through the air, which is why it is essential to take proper precautions to avoid spreading it to others.
The most typical symptoms of the common cold include:
- Stuffy nose
- Constant sneezing
- A sore throat
- Slight aches and pains
- Fatigue and weakness
- Chest discomfort
- Mild fever
Keep in mind that this is a rather long list, and the symptoms differ for each person who suffers from the common cold. However, if three or more of the above symptoms exist simultaneously, then there is a chance that you have developed a cold. Unlike the flu where symptoms can present themselves seemingly out of nowhere, the symptoms of a cold tend to have a more gradual onset, which means it may worsen to its peak over a two to three day period.
The best way to treat mild to moderate forms of a cold is through the utilization of over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants and cough syrup. Most importantly, however, it is crucial to give your body all that it needs to fight off the infection in a healthy manner, which means receiving plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids to ensure a speedy recovery. By treating the symptoms and receiving plenty of rest and fluids, most can recover from the common cold within a week.
While preventing the common cold is much easier said than done, there are certain precautions you can take to help avoid the onset of a cold. Since it spreads through contact, living a clean lifestyle is the best way to prevent the cold. Therefore, washing your hands several times a day and avoiding contact with sick individuals is the best way to prevent the common cold.
Flu Symptoms and Treatment
The flu, otherwise referred to as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by the flu virus. There are three types of the flu: influenza A, influenza B and influenza C. Influenza A can occur in both humans and animals and is often much more severe than influenza B or C. Influenza B, which only happens in humans, is usually less severe than influenza A, although it can be quite dangerous at times. Lastly, influenza C is the least mild, and it is often the most like the common cold, which makes its diagnosis much more difficult.
As mentioned, the flu share a lot of the same symptoms as the common cold, including a sore throat, runny or stuffed up nose and constant sneezing. However, several symptoms are much more prevalent to the flu than they are with a cold. These symptoms include:
- Sudden onset of symptoms
- Body aches
- Extreme fatigue
- Vomiting and diarrhea
While the more common form of the flu may only exhibit some of the more milder symptoms, more severe flu cases can be extremely alarming and require immediate medical attention.
It is important to catch and treat the flu as soon as possible as it becomes more difficult to treat with medication the longer it exists. As long as it is caught early, however, the flu can often be treated with antiviral medication, which is different than antibiotics (antibiotics treat bacteria, not viruses).
Like any illness, the best way to deal with the flu, and the common cold as well, is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. While the flu can happen regardless of preventative steps you take, you can give yourself a good chance at preventing one by coming in for your annual flu shot and living a healthy lifestyle.
When to Seek Urgent Care for The Cold or Flu
While a minor case of the common cold or flu can typically be treated with over-the-counter medication, proper fluids and plenty of rest, a more serious instance of the common cold or flu needs medical assistance and proper medication to recover in a reasonable timeframe. Subsequently, it is essential to be able to recognize the most prevalent symptoms and know when it is time to visit urgent care for cold and flu treatment.
Here are the three most pressing occasions when you should consider visiting our urgent care facility for cold and flu treatment:
- A child suffers from cold and flu symptoms
- Symptoms last for more than several days
- Symptoms progress rapidly at once
Children are not quite as strong at fighting off infections, which means it is essential to seek medical assistance in the event your child starts to exhibit cold or flu symptoms, especially if your child has a fever along with the cold or flu.
Additionally, any common cold or flu that lasts for more than several days, regardless of the age of the individual, it is vital to visit us so we can help you recover. The longer the cold or flu lasts, the more difficult it becomes for our body’s attempt to fight it off. Subsequently, medication may help to fight off an illness that lasts for an extended amount of time.
Lastly, if the symptoms start mildly but suddenly start to worsen into a more serious issue, then it is essential to seek medical assistance in order to prevent the symptoms from getting even worse and causing an extreme amount of discomfort. Especially with the flu, symptoms have a tendency to worsen seemingly for no reason and out of nowhere. In this instance, do not hesitate to come in for treatment.