Flu or Cold? How to Tell the Difference and When to See a Doctor

flu symptomsRunny nose, sore throat, and fever? All three symptoms can indicate a cold and they can also describe the flu. This time of year, when both colds and the flu are spreading, how do you know which one you have? Detecting the difference can influence whether you need to see the doctor and your treatment.

To help determine if you have a cold or the flu, review this guide to symptoms:

The Flu: A Fast, Feverish Start
  • Comes on very suddenly. You’re fine one day and are in bed with aches and fatigue the next.
  • Starts with a high fever. Flu patients typically run a fever of 100 to 102 degrees for three or four days.
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness.
  • Body aches.
  • Chest discomfort that can become severe.
  • Possible stuffy nose and sore throat.
A Cold: Congestion is the Main Symptom
  • Colds usually come on gradually. Often the first symptoms are a sore throat or runny nose.
  • Sometimes a fever accompanies a cold, but it is typically mild, no higher than 101 degrees.
  • Slight fatigue is normal.
  • Possible body aches that are not severe.
  • A stuffy nose, sore throat, and coughing are your main symptoms.
When to Call the Doctor
  • When You Suspect the Flu – If you suspect you have the flu, call the doctor as soon as possible. A quick nasal swab can confirm if it’s the flu. Anti-viral medications can be effective if prescribed within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The medications can reduce the severity of symptoms, speed your recovery, and lower the chances of complications like pneumonia.
  • Persistent Cough – If a cough doesn’t go away within two weeks, it could signal bronchitis, which must be treated with an antibiotic.
  • Persistent Fever – A fever that lasts more than three days could indicate a bacterial infection.
  • Painful Swallowing – A mild sore throat can be common with a cold or the flu. However, if it becomes painful to swallow, it may indicate strep throat.
Get Help for Symptoms

If you suspect you have the flu or have the symptoms above, you can schedule an appointment with a LeBauer primary care physician online.

Schedule a Flu Shot

If you’ve escaped the misery of the flu so far, but didn’t get your yearly flu shot, it’s not too late. New patients can get a shot when they visit a primary care physician at one of our six convenient locations. Request an appointment today.

Current LeBauer patients can call their office to schedule a flu shot.

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