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    Do You Have a Cold or Flu?

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    Do you feel under the weather and wonder if you're sick with the flu or a cold?

    It's often hard to tell the difference because the symptoms of both are similar. But there is one clue about flu that can help you know. When you have it, you feel the symptoms sooner than you would with a cold, and they come on with much greater intensity.

    What Are the Symptoms of the Flu?

    You may feel very weak and tired for up to 2 or 3 weeks. You'll have muscle aches and periods of chills and sweats as fever comes and goes. You may also have a stuffy or runny nose, headache, and sore throat.

    Can I Compare Flu and Cold Symptoms?

    This chart can help you see the differences and similarities. Then, if you get flu symptoms, call your doctor and ask about an antiviral drug.

    Symptoms

    Cold

    Flu

    Fever Rare Characteristic, high
    (100-102 degrees F); lasts 3 to 4 days
    Headache Rare Prominent
    General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
    Fatigue, Weakness Quite mild Can last up to 2 to 3 weeks
    Extreme Exhaustion Never Early and prominent
    Stuffy, Runny 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
    or earache
    Bronchitis, pneumonia;
    can be life-threatening

    Prevention

    Good hygiene Good hygiene and an annual flu vaccine

    Treatment

    Only
    temporary
    relief of symptoms
    Antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu),
    zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab)
    within 24-48 hours of onset

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 08, 2015
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