Is it a Cold or the Flu? Knowing the Difference Can Help Recovery

You woke up with a sore throat and runny nose and just want to go back to bed. Is it just a cold or could you have the flu? Both viruses are more prevalent in the late fall and winter and both have the potential to make you feel miserable. Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu can help you more effectively treat symptoms and get back on track quickly.

Learn more below or join Dr. Kate Tabori with LeBauer Primary Care at MedCenter High Point to hear her advice about how to fight back against the colds and the flu. 


Cold Symptoms & Treatment

Cold symptoms are generally mild and in most cases do not lead to any serious complications. Common cold symptoms include:

  • runny or stuffy nose
  • sore throat
  • sneezing
  • mild-to-moderate fever
  • cough
  • headache or body aches
  • mild tiredness

Treating a cold requires rest. It’s best to stay home for a few days at the start of a cold when you are most contagious. Over-the-counter medications can help curb congestion, aches, and pains. You should also drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated.

Flu Symptoms & Treatment

Flu symptoms can be similar to those of a cold, although they tend to be more severe. The flu also comes on very suddenly. Symptoms can include:

  • dry, hacking cough
  • moderate-to-high fever
  • sore throat
  • shaking chills
  • severe muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • stuffy and runny nose
  • profound fatigue (may last up to two weeks)

If you suspect the flu, your doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a swab of the nose or throat. If this quick test is positive, a prescription for an antiviral drug may help shorten the duration of your symptoms or prevent complications. These medications work best if you take them within the first 48 hours of getting sick.

You should also get plenty of fluids and rest. Over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen may control your symptoms and help you feel better.

When to Call a Doctor

With either the cold or the flu, if your symptoms do not improve or become severe, contact your doctor. Your physician can determine if you have developed complications, such as pneumonia, or have an infection, such as strep throat or bronchitis. Symptoms that warrant a doctor’s office visit include:

  • a high, persistent fever
  • a severe sore throat
  • trouble breathing or chest discomfort
  • a cough that produces green mucus
  • a persistent hacking cough

If you have any of these symptoms or suspect the flu, schedule a visit with a physician. The primary care providers at LeBauer HealthCare offer quick flu swab tests and treatment of cold or flu complications. Find a LeBauer near you to schedule an appointment.


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