A Cold vs. The Flu
A cold and the flu (also called influenza) are alike in many ways, but the flu can sometimes lead to more serious problems, like the lung disease pneumonia.
Cold symptoms include
- sore throat,
- stuffy nose and
Flu symptoms include
- tiredness, and
- severe aches and pains.
Coughing can be a sign of either a cold or the flu, but a bad cough usually points to the flu or a more serious problem.
Know when to call a doctor.
You usually do not have to call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a cold or flu. But you should call your doctor in these situations.
- Your symptoms get worse.
- Your symptoms last a long time.
- After feeling a little better, you develop symptoms of a more serious problem. Some of these symptoms are a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking chills, chest pain or coughing up thick, yellow-green mucus.
Try to avoid getting a cold.
- Wash your hands often. You can pick up cold germs easily—even when shaking someone's hand or touching doorknobs or handrails—and then rub the germs into your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Don't touch your nose, eyes or mouth. Germs can enter your body easily by these paths.
- Avoid people with colds when possible.
- If you sneeze or cough, do it into a tissue and then throw the tissue away. If you sneeze into your hands, wash them.
- Clean surfaces you touch with a germ-killing disinfectant.
Do not take antibiotics for a cold or flu. Antibiotics won't work against cold and flu germs.
Antibiotics should be taken only when really needed. Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed can lead to resistant bacteria.
Help yourself feel better while you are sick.
A cold usually lasts only a couple of days to a week. The flu may last longer.
The following may help when you are sick from a cold or the flu.
- A cough and cold medicine you buy without a prescription may help.
- Avoid cigarette smoke and alcohol.
- Drink plenty of fluids to loosen mucus so you can cough it up.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Use a humidifier (an electric device that puts water into the air).
Choose the right medicines for your symptoms.
Make sure the label states that it treats your symptoms.