How To Tell If You Have The Flu & Not a Cold

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

A cold and the flu are close relatives. Both the cold and flu are respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms such as: cough, runny nose, sore throat, or even a fever. The difference is the flu is much more aggressive and is caused by influenza.

"Influenza tends to be a similar start with cough and runny nose but it typically is more severe meaning higher fevers, muscle aches, body aches," said Dr. Ryan Jones a physician at McLaren Greater Lansing.

A sudden onset of symptoms, and/or body aches and pains are a clear indication of the flu and not just a cold.

"The two kinds of telltale signs that might differentiate between the flu and a cold is the achiness and the fatigue," said Christine Hendrickson who works at the Ingham County Health Dept.

Patients who are diagnosed quickly, can take medications to minimize the impact of the flu.

"If you are diagnosed within those first 48 hours it can decrease the length of your symptoms by a day or two and the severity of the symptoms and it can possibly decrease your chance of spreading it to others as well," said Dr. Jones.

Those with kids in their household, stopping the illness from spreading can be key. Besides getting the flu shot to prevent the illness in the first place, medical professionals recommend washing your hands regularly, avoiding contact with others, and coughing into a tissue.

"Coughing into your elbow so that you're containing the cough and not spreading it," said Hendrickson.

Some kids get sick every year, so when should parents be concerned?

"If they have the higher temperatures, if they are not eating or not drinking, they appear to be dehydrated definitely you would seek medical attention," said Jones.

The young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems have the greatest risk of getting the flu. Kids younger than six months can not get the shot and so it's important those around them take every preventative measure possible. Medical professionals say it's not too late to get a flu shot.


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