The Differences Between the Cold and the Flu

This entry was posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2017 and is filed under Blog by AENT Associates

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The Differences Between the Cold and the Flu

The winter cold and flu season (from January to March) can mean more than just a day off from work, sniffles and chicken soup. Losses of work and school productivity and income, for example, have a serious effect on an already struggling economy. Worse, some populations, such as the very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems can even die from an untreated flu virus, which is why doctors highly recommend that these groups get the flu vaccine every year and seek treatment if they get sick.

There are many “old wives’ tales” about the differences between the common cold and influenza, and how to treat each with home remedies. For example, it used to be thought that if a sick individual’s mucous was anything other than clear, they had the flu. Science has since debunked many of those stories — chicken soup might make you feel better, but it won’t actually make you better–and it is important to learn the truth about when it’s “just a cold,” and when you need to seek medical attention.

The acronym FACTS is a quick reference to determine whether you are dealing with the flu. FACTS stands for:

  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden Symptoms

With the common cold, you may see one or two of these, but almost never more, and especially all of them together.

  • *Fever: It’s not unusual to have a tiny bump in temperature when you catch a normal cold, but marked rises are often a signal of something more serious, including the flu.
  • Aches: Colds don’t usually cause muscle and joint aches and pains. They tend to be centered on the chest and head, especially the throat and nose. The flu, however, especially with fever, tends to overheat and dehydrate the body, causing aches.
  • Chills: When a body is burning up with fever, the system feels like it needs to keep up with the rising temperature, although the fever is not actually the core temperature, but only a way to try to burn off the virus. The flu makes your body try to increase its overall temperature by contracting and relaxing muscles, causing chills and shivering.
  • Tiredness: Between the fever, dehydration, and the body’s fight to get rid of the flu, it’s not surprising that we’re easily exhausted.
  • Sudden Symptoms: The first clue that you might be looking at the flu is often the onset of symptoms. With the cold, symptoms may slowly build up over days–a headache here, tiredness there. The flu, however, tends to come on fast. You might go to bed feeling fine, then wake up the next morning hardly able to get out of bed.

So if you or your loved ones aren’t feeling well and you’re not sure how to address it or whether you need medical attention, remember FACTS. Either way, if it seems serious, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor, or find one in your area. Call now and get the help you need!

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