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Home > > Health & WellnessIs it a Cold or the Flu?

Is it a Cold or the Flu?

To some people fall means leaves, football and cider mills, but to others it signals coughs, sore throats and stuffy noses. These symptoms could be the beginning of a cold or the flu. It's important to know the difference. While cold symptoms usually remain mild and go away in a few days, flu symptoms can worsen, last for weeks and lead to other health issues like pneumonia.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. In general, the flu is more severe than the common cold.

Common Flu Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough

Common Cold Symptoms

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Chest congestion
  • Cough with mucus or phlegm

How can you protect yourself?

The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu season typically begins in October, but can continue all the way through February. It's best to get the vaccine as early in the season as possible.

To protect against the common cold, always practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands regularly or use antibacterial hand sanitizer. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

How can you treat a cold or the flu?

You can treat some flu symptoms by getting plenty of rest, drinking clear fluids like water or sports drinks, and covering up with a warm blanket. Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can relieve flu symptoms, but they will not make you less contagious. If you have been diagnosed with the flu, you should stay home and follow your doctor's treatment plan.

There is no cure for the common cold but decongestants or saline nasal spray can help with symptoms like stuffy nose or cough. And other over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or Acetaminophen can help to ease body aches and pain.

If you're a member, log in and check out your member health reminders to see if you're due for a flu shot this year. For more information about cold and flu, visit the CDC website Link Opens in a New Window or Link Opens in a New Window.

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