Tips for Navigating a Flu or a Cold

The cold and the flu have many similar symptoms and share in their ability to make you miserable. Though both are treated in much the same way, with lots of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications, the flu is more likely to cause serious health complications.

Here are a few tips from South Plains Rural Health Services about how to know the difference and what you can do to feel better.

Is it a cold?

Cold symptoms are usually milder than the flu. Your symptoms develop gradually. You may feel a little rundown and have a few body or muscle aches, but usually, you’ll sneeze a lot and have a stuffy nose and sore throat.

A fever rarely occurs with a cold, though children will sometimes run a mild one. You may also experience some chest discomfort and a cough with your cold. 

Symptoms usually resolve within a week, unless you develop a bacterial sinus infection. In that case, South Rural Plains Health Services can help by prescribing an antibiotic.

Colds are contagious, especially in the first three days or so of symptoms.

Is it the flu?

The flu comes on suddenly and usually knocks you out. You’ll feel fatigued and achy. Other common symptoms of flu include:

You may have a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, and cough, too. The flu can get quite serious, especially in vulnerable populations like young children, people with compromised immunity, and the elderly.

The flu can cause complications, like bronchitis, pneumonia, and hospitalization.

The worst of your flu symptoms usually improve within two to five days, but you may feel lingering symptoms and fatigue for a week or longer. The flu is highly contagious, so stay home and wash your hands.

Is there an official way to tell what I have?

Diagnostic tests for the flu are available, but must be run in the first few days of your illness. Symptoms of the flu and a cold are also similar to many of those associated with COVID-19, too. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s important to quarantine and get tested for confirmation.

Do I need to see a doctor for cold or flu symptoms?

Usually, you can take care of yourself or your infected loved one at home. Over-the-counter medications can help ease your symptoms, but they won’t cure your illness. We recommend rest, fluids, and other therapies that help you feel more comfortable as your cold or flu runs its course.

If you have a persistent fever that lasts longer than three days, call one of our offices. You may have a sinus infection or pneumonia, which needs medical intervention. A severe sore throat that makes swallowing painful is an indication that strep throat has developed and that you need antibiotics.

A cough that lingers also deserves an evaluation. Although it could be related to asthma or post-nasal drip, it may indicate your flu has turned into bronchitis, which may require antibiotics.

Persistent pain around your sinus, a chronic headache, and blocked sinuses are other signs that your cold or flu has developed into a sinus infection and that you may need extra help recovering.

At South Plains Rural Health Services, we want to help you feel your best. Though we can’t prevent you from catching a cold and can only help deter the flu by encouraging you to get your annual flu shot, we can help you manage bothersome symptoms and prevent complications.

Call one of our locations, or use the online tool to schedule an appointment if you or a loved one is suffering unbearable cold or flu symptoms. We’ll offer the support you need to get back on your feet as soon as possible.

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