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    Flu or Cold Symptoms?

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    What are common flu symptoms? continued...

    Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it's not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, particularly in the young, elderly, or people with lung or heart problems. If you notice shortness of breath, let your doctor know. Another common sign of pneumonia is fever that comes back after having been gone for a day or two.

    Just like cold viruses, flu viruses enter your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth. Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you could be infecting yourself with a virus, which makes it very important to keep hands germ-free with frequent washing to prevent both flu and cold symptoms.

    Is it flu or cold symptoms?

    How do you know if you have flu or cold symptoms? Take your temperature, say many experts. Flu symptoms often mimic cold symptoms with nasal congestion, cough, aches, and malaise. But a common cold rarely has symptoms of fever above 101 degrees. With flu symptoms, you will probably have a fever initially with the flu virus and you will feel miserable. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu. This table can help determine if you have cold or flu symptoms.

    Symptoms

    Cold

    Flu

    Fever

    Sometimes, usually mild

    Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days

    Headache

    Occasionally

    Common

    General Aches, Pains

    Slight

    Usual; often severe

    Fatigue, Weakness

    Sometimes

    Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks

    Extreme Exhaustion

    Never

    Usual; at the beginning of the illness

    Stuffy Nose

    Common

    Sometimes

    Sneezing

    Usual

    Sometimes

    Sore Throat

    Common

    Sometimes

    Chest Discomfort, Cough

    Mild to moderate; hacking cough

    Common; can become severe

    Complications

    Sinus congestion; middle ear infection

    Sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia; can be life-threatening

    Prevention

    Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone with a cold

    Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone who has flu symptoms; get the annual flu vaccine

    Treatment

    Decongestants; pain reliever/fever reducer medicines

    Decongestants, pain relievers, or fever reducers are available over the counter; over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to young children; prescription antiviral drugs for flu may be given in some cases; call your doctor for more information about treatment.

    Usually, the time of year will give you some sense of what you're dealing with. The standard flu season runs from fall to spring of the next year.

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