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How Do You Know If You Have A Cold Or The Flu?

Updated: Tuesday, January 15 2013, 03:36 PM CST

Flu cases are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza has hit the south central and southeastern parts of the U.S. hard over the past few weeks. And other sections of the country are seeing flu outbreaks. But this is also the season for winter colds. How can you tell which illness you have?

It's the season for sneezing and coughing, but when it comes down to telling whether you have the flu or just the common cold, it's sometimes almost impossible.

The flu and the common cold affect the respiratory tract, but they are caused by different viruses. And the flu is caused by a stronger virus that, if not taken care of, can develop other complications, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or require hospitalizations.

Symptoms of the flu are usually worse than those of the common cold. They include fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, and an intense dry cough. Common colds usually just come with a lot of congestion, including runny or stuffy noses.

There are tests that can be done in the first few days of an illness if you need to make sure you or a loved one don't have the flu.

Little ones, people with immune problems and the elderly are susceptible to flu complications. If you are still uncertain, call your doctor.

The best way to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot -- and there's still time. The flu season usually goes into late February, early March.How Do You Know If You Have A Cold Or The Flu?

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Flu Signs and Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:


Flu Symptoms (more intense than common cold):

  • Fever 
  • Body aches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough are more common and intense
  • Chills
  • HeadachesCommon

Cold Symptoms:  
  • Stuffy/runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever is rare
  • Slight body aches
  • Mild fatigue

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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