Cold and Flu Symptoms Which Do You Have?

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Family together in bed sick with a cold.

Cold and flu symptoms are sometimes similar so it is hard to distinguish which one you have. While they are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses. It is also difficult to tell which one you based on the symptoms due to the similarities in the symptoms of both. To tell the difference between them, we have compiled a list that should help you to determine which one you have. For general reference, influenza (flu) is more serious than a common cold, and the symptoms more intense, however they tend to not last as long.

Those most likely to first get it are school age children which are typically the first age group to come down with a case of influenza. They get the virus at school and bring it to their other activities and their homes, where they are in contact with other children and adults, and their family members. The typical flu season is from the months of October to March.

Those that are at risk for serious flu complications the elderly, young children, and those with specific health conditions with weakened immune systems. In a typical year roughly 5 to 20% of people come down with the flu, with over 200,000 of those being hospitalized due to flu complications. Nearly 23,600 people even die from flu-related causes each year, so it is nothing to sneeze at!

What exactly is the Flu?

The flu in the science world is known as influenza, which is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by what are known as influenza viruses. The influenza virus typically gets into your body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, and/or eyes.

When someone coughs or sneezes when they have the influenza virus, the virus then becomes airborne and exposes everyone nearby to it as they can inhale it themselves. You can also get it if you have touched a surface that has been contaminated with the virus such as a telephone, a doorknob, a phone or keyboard, and then touch your own mouth or nose or eyes. Obviously the risk of getting infected by the influenza virus is far greater in densely populated areas such as schools, buses, stores, offices, and other densely populated urban settings.

Cold and Flu Symptoms

Flu Symptoms

Here are some of the common symptoms:

  1. Fever of 100°F or higher
    Fevers occur when your body temperature rises due to an illness or injury. Normal body temperature is 98.6 °F and it is considered a fever if it reaches 100°F or higher.
  2. Muscle Aches
    Muscle and body aches that can’t be explained normally and similar body aches may be an indication you have the influenza.
  3. Chills
    Chills that can’t be explained by being in a cold room or outdoors in the cold can be a good indicator that you have the influenza.
  4. Headaches
    Headaches that may be caused by the influenza may appear suddenly and be in addition to a clogged nose and body aches and pains.
  5. Sore Throat
    A sore throat can be caused by swelling in the throat.
  6. Runny Nose
    Your nose may run but this is a more common symptom in children rather than adults.
  7. Stomach Symptoms
    It may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, although they are less common in adults than in children.
  8. Chest Pain – Coughing
    Chest pain may often be severe when you have influenza.

Cold Symptoms

  1. Sore Throat
    Colds typically begin with a sore throat and disappears after a day or two.
  2. Nasal Symptoms
    Some of the more common cold symptoms are a runny nose and lung congestion, followed by coughing by the fourth and fifth day.
  3. Fever
    Fevers are not common in adults, although a slight fever is still possible. Children, however, are more apt to have a fever during a cold.
  4. Aches & Chills
    Muscle aches and pains and the chills are usually not associated with colds.
  5. Fatigue & Weakness
    These symptoms sometimes occur during a cold, however they are typical when you have influenza.
  6. Sneezing – Stuffy Nose – Sore Throat
    These symptoms are all common with a cold, but are only experienced sometimes during a bout of influenza.

To find of if the influenza virus is going around in your area, use the CDC Flu Activity and Surveillance Charts Found Here.

We hope that our discussion of the cold and flu symptoms helps you to better determine which of the two you have. Peace my friends and get well soon!

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