What Are the Differences Between Common Cold and Flu?

DOCS Urgent Care Branford

Many Branford, CT residents suffer from the common cold and flu, but they don’t know how to differentiate one from the other. Both conditions have similar symptoms, so we understand how tricky it can be to know which virus you’ve contracted. Is your cough a sign of a cold or flu? There’s only one way to find out.

In this article, DOCS Urgent Care Branford will discuss the common cold and flu and the critical differences between the two.

What is the Common Cold?

The common cold is a viral infection involving your upper respiratory tract, particularly the nose and throat. Although it might not feel like it, a common cold is usually harmless. Healthy adults typically experience two to three common cold occurrences annually, most of them experiencing the symptoms between September and May

Due to their immature immune system and their close contact with others their age, children are more susceptible to common colds. The common cold is usually why many parents visit urgent care in Branford, CT, to seek treatment. The average child is expected to experience between 6 to 10 colds annually, which is more than a typical adult would experience.


Here are some of the typical symptoms of the common cold:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Mild hacking cough
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Slight body aches, mild headache, and fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Watering eyes
  • Chills
  • Watery nose discharge that can thicken into a yellow or green hue


Common cold symptoms often appear one to three days after exposure to the cold-causing virus. Remember that cold symptoms mimic those of other illnesses, so you should visit an urgent care center in Branford, CT, to learn more about your current medical condition.

Risk Factors

The risk factors below can increase the chances of you catching a common cold:

  • Exposure. If you’ve been exposed to crowds such as family gatherings or went to the mall or airport, you’ve probably been exposed to cold-causing viruses.
  • Smoking. Smokers and secondhand smokers are more likely to experience colds, which can eventually lead to medium-to-severe colds.
  • Time of the Year. Many adults and children are susceptible to the common cold during specific times of the year, such as the fall and winter, when the temperature is low. However, anybody can experience cold at any time of the year.
  • Age. Infants and young children are more likely to catch colds, especially when they frequent childcare settings.

Weakened Immune System. People with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems have an increased risk of catching a common cold.


urgent care in Branford, CT

Here are some things DOCS Urgent Care Branford suggests you do to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting the common cold:

  • Distance yourself from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • Frequently and properly wash your hands with soap and water.


To protect yourself and others from catching cold-causing viruses, here are some precautionary methods you can employ:

  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, toys, keyboards, etc.)
  • Wash your hands whenever you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose
  • Ensure you throw away the tissue you’ve sneezed or coughed into
  • If you feel like sneezing or coughing but don’t have anything to cover your face with, completely cover your mouth and nose and sneeze or cough into your shirt’s upper sleeve.
  • Be sure to maintain a safe distance from other people whenever you feel like coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay in the comfort of your home if you currently have common cold symptoms.


Common cold symptoms usually linger a week before going away on their own, making it sometimes unnecessary to see the doctor. However, if the symptoms worsen or don’t go away after the expected duration, contact your local urgent care in Branford, CT, to address the situation.

Your urgent care provider in Branford, CT, may diagnose your situation as a simple common cold, bacterial infection, or other medical condition. They may also conduct tests such as an X-ray to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.


Unfortunately, there is no direct cure for the common cold. But since it goes away on its own, the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. This will help your body heal as fast as it can. Be sure to get rest and drink plenty of liquids. You can also clear your nasal passages using a saline rinse.

Some over-the-counter medications also ease your symptoms and make you feel less miserable. Before purchasing these medications, go to your urgent care provider in Branford, CT, and get a prescription first. 

Here are some medications you can get to ease your common cold symptoms:

  • Pain relievers
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal sprays
  • Cough syrups

DOCS Urgent Care Branford can get you up to speed on everything you need to do to recover from a common cold. Contact them today to get started.

What is a Flu?

Flu is an infection of the parts of the respiratory system, particularly the nose, throat, and lungs. The term flu comes from the word influenza, but people should be aware that it is not the same as other types of influenza, such as stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) which causes diarrhea and vomiting. 

From October to December 2022 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been around 18 to 37 million flu illnesses in the U.S. While the influenza virus is present all year round, flu activity occurring during the fall and winter, with its peak being in December and February.


Here are some of the common symptoms of the flu:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Chills and sweat
  • Aching muscles
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Eye-pain 
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (common to children, not adults)

    Many people attribute the flu to the common cold, and for good reasons. Flu symptoms and colds are standard, especially runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. However, how fast these symptoms develop is where the two differ. The common cold tends to develop slowly, while the flu comes in an instant. And while it’s common for people to feel miserable if they have a common cold, people with the flu tend to have it worse.

Risk Factors

The following factors may heighten your risk of catching the flu or developing further complications:

  • Obesity. If your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, you may have a higher chance of catching the flu and developing complications.
  • Age. People under the age of 2 and adults over the age of 65 tend to experience seasonal influenza much worse.
  • Pregnancy. If you’re bearing a child, you’re susceptible to developing flu complications, especially during the second and third trimesters.
  • Living or Working Conditions. Suppose you’re working or living in facilities that house many people, such as barracks, nursing homes, or hospitals. You may have a higher risk of catching the flu and developing complications in that case.
  • Long-term Aspirin Use. If you’re younger than 19 years old and have been relying on aspiring for long-term therapy, you’re at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome once you’re infected with the flu.
  • Weakened Immune System. People with weakened immune systems are much more susceptible to catching the flu, especially the ones undergoing cancer treatments, organ transplants, and long-term steroid use, to name a few.
  • Chronic Illnesses. If you have lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and the like, you have a higher chance of developing flu complications.
  • Race. According to CDC reports, American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to develop an increased risk of flu complications.


Here are some ways to protect yourself from flu virus exposure:

  • Keep your distance from sick people.
  • Stay at home if you’re sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose whenever you feel like coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Maintain good health habits (get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, manage your stress properly, etc.)
  • Get flu shots and vaccines from DOCS Urgent Care Branford.


Your Branford, CT urgent care will do a physical examination. They will search for potential influenza symptoms; if any are found, they will request a test to identify the virus. In some cases, you may have to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to diagnose the influenza virus strain you have correctly.

Remember that you may contract influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously, so be sure to seek the help of urgent care in Branford, CT, near you.


Branford, CT urgent care

People with flu usually need nothing more than rest and plenty of fluids to treat themselves. However, those with severe infections or at risk of complications will need special treatment. Their healthcare provider may prescribe antiviral medications to treat their condition, such as oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir, to name a few. 

If you’re sure to have contracted the flu, you can do the following methods to ease your symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (water, juice, warm soups, etc.).
  • Consider pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.


Before ingesting any medication, ask your urgent care provider in Branford, CT, for a prescription.

The Key Differences Between Common Cold and Flu

Now that you have a better understanding of the common cold and flu, it’s time for you to know their differences. While they’re similar at face value, some key differences will help you distinguish one from the other.

Flu Symptoms Develop Quickly

You’ll frequently be surprised by the flu’s rapid onset of symptoms and its potential severity. The flu typically begins with immediate fever, chills, muscle aches, a minor headache, and weariness. You can also experience other symptoms, such as a runny nose and a cough. You feel awful, and you feel awful quickly.

Common Cold Last Longer Than the Flu

With flu, you’ll typically see the symptoms lasting at least five to seven days, with fatigue sticking around for longer. With a common cold, however, the symptoms such as fever and sinus pain can last for more than a week. Be sure to contact the nearest urgent care in Branford, CT, if you experience any long-lasting symptoms.

Flu Comes With a Significant Fever; Common Cold Doesn’t

Remember that the common cold rarely comes with a raging fever. Expect a flu fever to come in fast, with your temperature reaching above 100° Fahrenheit. During this time, get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids.

Dry Cough is an Obvious Symptom of Flu

The type of cough is an excellent determinant between a common cold and the flu. With a common cold, you’d get a mucus-producing wet-phlegm cough. But with the flu, you’re more likely to experience a dry cough that doesn’t produce mucus.

Sore Throat, Sneezing, or Stuffy Nose is Obvious Symptoms of the Common Cold

Sore throat, sneezing, or stuffy nose are tell-tale signs of a cold. They’re also a symptom of the flu, but they’re the prevailing symptoms of the common cold.

Flu Tends to Bring Muscle Aches

If you’re experiencing aches and pains all over your body, you’re more likely to have flu than the common cold.

Extreme Fatigue Points to Flu

Extreme fatigue and lethargy are common in people that have contracted the flu. They may continue feeling under the weather for a few days, even after the other symptoms halt. On the other hand, the common cold will come with mild fever and aches. But if you feel like you’ve been slammed by a speeding truck, you probably contracted a flu-causing virus.

How DOCS Urgent Care Branford Can Help

How DOCS Urgent Care Branford Can Help​

If you’re feeling under the weather and you’re unsure whether you have a common cold or flu, it’s time to contact DOCS Urgent Care Branford. They can help you deal with the symptoms and get you flu shots and vaccinations. They’ve got access to the best team of healthcare providers in Connecticut, and they can get you in tip-top shape in no time.

Contact them today or book an appointment with them to get started!


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