Is It a Cold? Or Is It the Flu? And What Do You Do?
Is It A Cold or the Flu?
|Fever||Rare||Usual, high (100ºF-102°F [37.8ºC-38.8°C]) last 3-4 days|
|General aches, pains||Slight||Usual; often severe|
|Fatigue, weakness||Sometimes||Usual, can last up to 2-3 weeks|
|Extreme exhaustion||Never||Usual; at the beginning of the illness|
|Chest discomfort, cough||Mild to moderate, hacking cough||Common; can become severe|
Facts About the Common Cold
Preventing a Cold
- Avoid close contact with people who have a cold.
- Wash your hands often.
- Do not touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. This will help you avoid infecting yourself with germs you may have picked up.
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away. If you do not have a tissue handy then put your arm up over your face and sneeze into your elbow. (Sneezing onto your hands increases your likelihood of spreading the cold to others!)
- Wash your hands often.
- Limit close contact with others when you are sick.
Treating a Cold
Take certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications. For example,
helps to relieve aches and fever, while decongestants and antihistamines combat congestion. Use caution, though, when giving these medications to children.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that OTC cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants or children less than two years old and supports not using them in children less than four years old. Rare but serious side effects have been reported, including death, convulsions, rapid heart rates, and decreased levels of consciousness. OTC cough and cold products include decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines, and antitussives (cough suppressants). The FDA is still reviewing data concerning the safety of these products in children aged 2-11 years. There have been serious side effects reported in this age group as well.
- Drink at plenty of water every day. This will help keep you hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol as it promotes dehydration.
- Avoid smoke. It irritates an already sore throat and intensifies a cough.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Use a humidifier—an electric device that puts moisture into the air.
Facts About the Flu
Preventing the Flu
Treating the Flu
- Zanamivir (Relenza)—This may worsen asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)—Some kinds of seasonal influenza virus are resistant to this drug.
- Amantadine (Symmetrel)—Some kinds of seasonal influenza virus are resistant to this drug.
- Rimantadine (Flumadine)—Some kinds of seasonal influenza virus are resistant to this drug.
When to Call the Doctor
- Your symptoms get worse.
- Your symptoms last a long time.
After you feel better, you develop signs of a more serious problem. These include:
- Sick-to-your-stomach feeling
- High fever
- Shaking chills
- Chest pain
- Coughing with a thick mucus
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov
Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, Chilton L, et al; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med. 1 Feb 2011. 154(3):168-173.
Carson-Dewitt R. Seasonal influenza. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated April 16, 2010. Accessed July 2, 2010.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years —United States, 2011. MMWR. 2011;60(5).
Is it a cold or the flu? National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/Pages/coldOrFlu.aspx. Accessed July 20, 2011.
McCoy K. Seasonal influenza vaccine. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated November 17, 2009. Accessed July 2, 2010.
1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Public health advisory: Nonprescription cough and cold medicine use in children—FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/advisory/cough%5Fcold%5F2008.htm. Accessed January 30, 3008.
11/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Cowling BJ, Chan KH, Fang VJ, et al. Facemasks and hand hygiene to prevent influenza transmission in households: a cluster randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(7):437-446.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 07/2011 -
- Update Date: 07/20/2011 -