Maria Leary, R.N., is the Infection Prevention and Employee Health Coordinator at Upland Hills Health.
Both are respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. The common cold and the flu have similar symptoms associated with one another, which makes it difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms of the flu tend to be more severe and intense then the common cold symptoms. Common symptoms during a cold include a runny or stuffy nose, come on gradually, and doesn’t usually result in any other serious health problems. The flu presents more sudden, severe symptoms such as fatigue, chills, fever, and headaches. The flu can also lead to other serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, which then result in hospitalizations, or even death.
Here’s a list of signs and symptoms of the flu and the common cold:
If you’re experiencing any symptoms that arise suddenly, and are severe and persistent it is important to consult your healthcare provider for advice-contact your clinic or if in respiratory distress seek care through the hospital Emergency Department.
If you are diagnosed with the influenza, and antiviral medications are recommended for you, the sooner you start taking antiviral drugs, the more effective they will be in making you feel better. Also, if you’re experiencing persistent “cold” symptoms after ten days, it is important to consult your medical provider–call your clinic to check if you should be seen.
Whether it is a cold or flu that you have, anytime you have a period of feeling better and then experience increased symptoms of difficulty breathing and/or fever you should seek medical care. Early diagnosis of the complications of respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia means appropriate medication and treatment can be prescribed to support your full recovery.
It’s important to take care of your health and the people around you.