Cold or Flu? Your Tell Tale Symptoms

Flu Shots

Winter is here, and the choir of sniffs and sneezes seems ever growing in our daily life. Posters beg each passerby to wash their hands on every corner of the office and flu shot jingles are all over television and radio.

That’s right: flu season has come.

It’s hard to tell if our common cold symptoms will warrant a visit to the doctor or a week away from work. Is it just a sniffle? Or will I wake up tomorrow sneezing harder? Am I running a fever, or is the room too hot? Sickness is stressful enough once symptoms rear their ugly heads — but having to deal with the guessing game of “flu” or “cold” every winter gets old.

The difference, believe it or not, has more to do with what you’re feeling. More often than not, we write our symptoms aside as pesky or mild in favor of going to work. But with more attention, we can spot the flu before it clears out our weekly plans.

The Common Cold

The most recognizable symptom of a common cold is post-nasal drip: that strange, dripping-sensation you feel at the back of your throat when you cough. Post-nasal drip is caused by a buildup of excess mucus in the sinuses. As mucus piles in the sinuses, excess travels down the back of the throat. The mucus on the back of your throat irritates the tissue, and your body prompts you to cough in an effort to clear your throat. A dose of Robitussin mildly alleviates the ache, but by dawn you’re hacking up a lung.

Your standard cold comes with all its trademark symptoms: stuffy nose, sore throat, and maybe a sinus infection. You feel cold and sleepier than usual. Symptoms, despite their annoyance, are rather mild.

The Flu

The flu is characterized by more moderate to severe cold symptoms, with its own additions. While common cold symptoms come with the flu, you experience them with more severity. A mild fever you might have with a cold will raise in temperature. The flu also adds body chills and aches to its arsenal, as well as an unshakeable feeling of fatigue.

In comparison to the cold, you find yourself exhausted as opposed to being tired. Your body will be sore and potentially feverish. A fever is not necessarily the tell-tale sign your cold has graduated to a flu, however.

The easiest way to combat your flu is with prep-work. Taking the extra step to receive your flu vaccination to save the guesswork of flu season.

So is it a Cold or the Flu?

The difference between the two? Speed.

A cold is gradual. Symptoms begin and develop on a day-to-day basis, usually beginning with a sore throat or runny nose and escalating from there. Its symptoms are very mild and slow to come. The flu, in contrast, is sudden. Symptoms come in quick succession rather than building like a cold.

Flu symptoms require immediate attention. Be this by home remedy and rest, or a visit to Beyond Urgent Care’s facilities, a flu has potential for complication. Young children, adults above the age of 65, pregnant women, and patients with chronic medical conditions are at the highest risk for complications, and are advised to see a doctor immediately to prevent issue. 

Knowing your symptoms and acting accordingly can be the difference between a week away from work and a trip to the doctor. Visit our locations page to find the nearest urgent care near you.