It’s that time of year again; the time of year filled with achy muscles, slight fevers, scratchy throats and runny noses. But is it a cold, or is it the flu?
While the flu and the common cold are both common respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses, but because they have very similar symptoms often times it can be difficult to tell them apart.
The onset of a cold is more gradual, typically beginning with a sore throat. While this might go away after a day or two, nasal symptoms - such as a runny nose and congestion - will follow, along with a cough. While a fever is uncommon in adults, children might experience a slight fever. Cold symptoms usually last for about a week. If they last longer, consider visiting your doctor; it’s possible you’ve contracted a bacterial infection which may require antibiotics.
Symptoms of the flu on the other hand are typically more severe and come on more quickly. Flu symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches, congestion and cough. Unlike a common cold, the flu can lead to a number of additional health complications, including pneumonia. This is especially common in young children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung problems.
Taking your temperature is the simplest way to determine whether you have a cold or the flu. While flu symptoms often mimic those of a cold, a fever above 101 degrees is exceptionally rare. It’s also important to take stock of the symptoms you’re experiencing. For example, body and muscle aches are much more common with the flu.
Use this table developed by the CDC to help determine whether you’ve contracted a cold or the flu.