Everyone suffers from sickness from time to time, and cold and the flu are two common illnesses that are easily spread. Although they have similar symptoms, the treatments for colds and the flu are different, so it’s important to know which one you have. You want to start treatment and feel better as soon as possible, so how can you tell which sickness you have?
Why You Need to Know the Difference
Colds and the flu are both illnesses that affect the respiratory system, but they are caused by different viruses. This also means that the treatment for colds and the flu are different. You may be able to manage the symptoms with the same over the counter medications, but the underlying cause cannot be treated the same. The symptoms for both the cold and the flu can be very similar, making them almost impossible to distinguish from each other on your own.
A cold can linger for weeks and make it uncomfortable or impossible to get through your day. The flu can do the same, but if left untreated the flu can turn into pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Because the symptoms of colds and the flu are so similar, it can be hard to tell them apart. Symptoms they share are a cough, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, body aches, headaches, weakness, and fatigue. Flu symptoms are usually stronger than cold symptoms and may be more debilitating.
The flu is much more likely to give you a fever and chills than a cold, although a cold may have these symptoms too. The flu can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. The flu can come on very abruptly, while cold symptoms may creep up on you gradually. The common cold is unlikely to lead to any complications or more serious illnesses, while the flu can lead to pneumonia or other infections that require medical attention.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is important to properly treat your illness, whether it is the common cold or the flu. Flu tests often must be done within the first few days of illness, so it’s important that if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above to get tested for the flu.
You can get a flu test at urgent care. If you get a rapid test, you should receive results within about 10-15 minutes of taking the test. If you test positive for the flu, you may be able to receive a shot or other treatment to help treat the flu, relieve your symptoms, and shorten the length of your illness. More importantly, getting treatment will help prevent complications and more serious illnesses. If you don’t have the flu, you can still get treatment for your cold at urgent care, too. This will help you feel better faster and get back to your normal routine.