Cold vs. Flu – What You Need to Know


It’s that time of year—you notice a woman on the elevator sneezing and you look for an escape, or one of your co-workers insists on coming to work even though he is coughing and sneezing.  Then, you wake up one morning and you are feeling sick but you aren’t sure if it is a common cold or the flu.

There is one tell-tale sign of the flu—fever with body aches and chills. The flu tends to hit suddenly and last seven to ten days. A cold tends to come on more gradually. Both the common cold and the flu are a virus that affects the respiratory tract and causes sneezing, stuffy nose, cough and a sore throat.

“Both a cold and the flu are viral infections and antibiotics are rarely indicated,” said Dr. Drew Byers, St. Elizabeth Physicians at Dry Ridge Primary Care. “But if you have the flu, there is a medication that can lessen the duration and severity of the illness.”

How do I treat a cold or flu?

If you are experiencing the fever, body aches and chills that indicate you may have the flu, get to your doctor early. Dr. Byers also warns, “during the flu season (October- May), it is important to be seen early if you have symptoms of the flu, especially if you are elderly, have chronic heart and lung conditions, are pregnant, or are a young child.”

Whether you have the cold or the flu it is important to get rest, drink plenty of water, and remember you can be contagious so stay home if possible, wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.

How do I prevent a cold or flu?

Both the cold and the flu are viral infections and so the virus is spread by droplets when you cough, sneeze, or even talk.  Be careful around people who are coughing and sneezing by keeping a safe distance and do not share food or other objects.

Wash your hands frequently during the cold and flu season and keep your hands away from face after you have touched desks, door knobs, faucets and other items that may have droplets from someone with a virus.

The number one thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu is get an annual flu vaccine. Each year the vaccine protects against the virus research suggest will be most common.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare offers flu vaccine through our primary care offices and urgent care centers, call your primary care office today to schedule your vaccine. Don’t have a primary care physician? Find one