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How To Tell the Difference Between the Common Cold & the Flu

Since the common cold and flu signs and symptoms are similar, it can be challenging to determine which one you have if you're feeling under the weather. Both of these sicknesses are caused by different viruses, which means they can't be treated with antibiotics; instead, each illness has to run its course.

When the cold virus enters your body, it multiplies itself and infects healthy cells. Most people start to feel symptoms one to three days after they're exposed. Typically these symptoms last seven to 10 days but can continue for up to three weeks. Adults are generally afflicted with two or three colds per year.

You can get the flu any time, but this illness is most common from October through May, which is infamously termed the "flu season." Unlike a cold, a flu vaccine is offered. This lessens the likelihood you'll get the flu, and if you still get sick, the symptoms shouldn't be as harsh. Flu symptoms should go away after five days, but some people may feel sick for one to two weeks.

Looking at Your Symptoms

While many cold and flu symptoms overlap, colds usually start mild and gradually get worse over time. Flu symptoms occur abruptly and are severe to begin with but will taper off as the virus runs its course. Essentially, a cold gives you a heads up that you're getting sick, whereas the flu shows up unexpectedly.

Symptoms of a cold may consist of the following:

• Sneezing
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Headache
• Cough
• Sore or itchy throat
• Body aches
• Congestion

Flu symptoms are generally more intense. They include:

Runny or stuffy nose
Extreme fatigue
Dry cough
Body aches
Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting

It's important to note the different types of coughs, as some require a doctor's visit. Children should receive medical attention if they're wheezing or having difficulty breathing. A trip to the doctor's is highly recommended if a child's cough is combined with exhaustion, pale skin, or a high fever.

Adults should seek medical help if their cough keeps them awake at night, causes wheezing or leads to dehydration. Also, the cough shouldn't last for more than two months.

What Are the Next Steps

The best way to treat a cold is to tend to the symptoms. Try a homeopathic cold medicine to give your immune system a boost, which may reduce the illness's length and the intensity of its symptoms.

The flu is generally treated the same way as a cold. However, some people are at a higher risk for complications. Pregnant women, young children, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases should seek medical attention when they show signs of sickness. A doctor can prescribe an antiviral drug to help a higher-risk individual beat the flu without incident.

If you start to feel a tickle in your throat or develop a cough, don't panic! You can soothe these symptoms with the proper medications. Find effective over-the-counter cold and flu treatments from a highly trusted brand.


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