The Difference Between Cold & Flu Symptoms

November 20, 2023

Fall and winter are peak cold and flu season. Although the common cold is a relatively minor illness, it shares many symptoms with the early stages of the flu. This makes it important to understand how they both impact your body so that you can seek treatment early and prevent severe symptoms from manifesting.

Cold & Flu Causes

Although distinctly different illnesses, the common cold and the flu actually have similar origins: they both stem from viral infections. While this is true, the cold and flu are caused by different types of viruses. Most commonly known, the flu is caused by the Influenza virus. There are three main strands of the influenza virus: A, B, and C and they all cause similar symptoms.

The common cold, on the other hand, can be caused by a wide variety of viruses. Because colds are so mild in nature, we often do no test to see which virus is causing the infection. Although the origins of both the common cold and the flu are similar, the symptoms and treatment options are vastly different.

Common Cold & Flu Symptoms

 Viral infections can manifest in a wide variety of symptoms. However, not all viral infections are the same. The influenza virus typically is a much more severe infection compared to the viruses that cause the common cold. Due to this, it is important to watch your symptoms if you’re feeling sick to ensure that you can seek appropriate medical treatment if you come down with the flu.

Common Cold Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat

Symptoms of Influenza:

  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting

Common colds and early flu symptoms can look identical. However, a cold will cause mild symptoms for up to a week while the flu will bring more severe symptoms that often last only a few days. Identifying the early symptoms of the flu can help you prepare by seeking medical care early.

Cold & Flu Treatment Options at Urgent Care

Viral infections are very common, however, there is no real medical treatment available for them. Unlike bacterial infections which can be resolved with antibiotics, viruses must be fought off by your body's immune system over time. This makes preventing viral infections vital for staying healthy this cold and flu season.

Although there are no real treatments available to cure viral infections, there are multiple options for symptom management. Oftentimes, symptoms can be managed effectively with the use of over-the-counter medications. However, in certain cases, IV fluids and other measures might be necessary to help your body fight off the infection caused by the flu. If you experience severe symptoms, prolonged symptoms that won’t resolve, or a high fever, you should seek medical care for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Cold & Flu Prevention

Preventing viral infections is an important way to ensure that you reduce your risk of getting sick this fall. Luckily, viral infections are easy to avoid with just a few simple tips and tricks that mostly revolve around basic hygiene.

Steps you can take to avoid contracting a virus:

  1. Wash your hands regularly
  2. Carry hand sanitizer
  3. Disinfect common surfaces (kitchen, bathroom, door knobs)
  4. Avoid sick people
  5. Get your annual flu shot

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu during flu season is to get your annual flu shot. However, not all viruses that can make you sick have a vaccine. Avoiding viral infections is simple when you take just a few extra steps in your day-to-day life to ensure that you’re not accidentally picking up viruses that can cause you to get sick.

Get Cold & Flu Care at AFC Urgent Care Short Hills

If you’re feeling under the weather, quick illness detection can prevent more serious symptoms from manifesting. Although the cold and flu may present with similar symptoms at first, the flu is a serious infection that can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Luckily, the medical staff at AFC Urgent Care Short Hills is trained in symptom identification and our facility is equipped with a state-of-the-art laboratory for rapid diagnostic testing to help you get the treatment that you need. You never need an appointment to be seen by the medical staff at AFC Urgent Care Short Hills, simply walk into our clinic when it is convenient for you.

At AFC Urgent Care Short Hills, we provide flu shots and cold and flu diagnosis on a walk-in basis. We accept most medical insurance plans and offer low-cost care options. Simply walk into our clinic today, or schedule an appointment online. For additional questions regarding our clinic, please contact us directly.

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