Even though we’re officially into spring now, flu season this year is still going strong. Yes, it is definitely common to be wondering whether you have a cold, a flu, or if you’ve caught some other virus going around. While already feeling under the weather, you can also feel confused about what it is you even have. Let’s review how to tell if you have a flu.
The Difference Between a Flu and a Cold
The flu and cold have some main symptoms that are very similar, so it can be confusing to know which over-the-counter medication to buy or how to treat your condition.
Colds are characterized by a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, fatigue, sore throat or cough, slight fever, and headaches. Colds are very common and contagious, and usually last a few days but shouldn’t take longer than a week to get over. You can catch a cold any time of year. Some people believe colds are a fall or winter condition but this association could be because we are more often indoors and around each other, so it can be easier to catch the airborne virus from each other in those months.
One of the major differences between a flu and a cold is that a flu can be much more severe. It can also worsen into pneumonia, and can become very serious in children, elderly adults, or anyone with a condition that lowers their immune system. A cold can occur year-round, but you can only catch a flu from fall to spring.
A flu, like a cold, can give you a cough and sore throat, but the cough will likely be more intense. Similarly, any fever from a flu will be higher than a fever from a cold, and body aches will be more severe. You may experience chills and find yourself shivering or shaking from a flu. You are likely to have headaches and a runny or congested nose, which may make you think you have a bad cold, but remember to look for one of the most obvious indicators: sudden onset. If you were fine yesterday and today you are completely sick, it is more likely to be a flu than a cold.
How to Treat a Flu
Taking preventative measures such as getting a flu shot is probably the most proactive thing you can do. The flu is caused by a combination of the influenza A, B, and C virus strains. It is important to get a flu shot every year because the virus and vaccine are different every year. If you have not gotten a flu shot this year, and notice your relatives, coworkers or friends are still getting sick, it is still a good idea to get your shot done.
If you do get the flu, remember there are three important things to do. The first is to rest. We know it is hard for people who normally have a full to-do list to stop and rest, but pushing yourself will only prolong the illness. Remind yourself that it is okay not to exercise, go to work, or finish all your errands. If you have the flu, you need rest. Take care of your body so that you can recover as soon as possible.
The second way you can respond is to go see your doctor immediately. While over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can help manage some of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend prescription drugs such as Relenza that will help it from progressing into pneumonia and help minimize the length of illness. Keep in mind that you would need to see your doctor and start taking the prescription medications in the first 48 hours for them to be the most beneficial.
When you have the flu, you feel so exhausted and ill that you likely do not have much appetite. Drinking a lot of liquids, however, is highly important. Take a break from coffee or alcohol and make sure to drink more water, fruit juice and herbal teas than you normally consume. You can drink slowly as long as you are drinking hydrating fluids often. Keep a glass by you at all times so you can see it and remember to be hydrating.
We hope this refresher on flu symptoms and treatment was a helpful reminder! Wash your hands, sneeze into the crook of your elbow, and hang on til this late flu season passes.