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Differences Between a Cold and Flu

By Lana Bandoim

Although some of the symptoms of a cold and flu overlap, they are not identical. It is important to be aware of the differences and recognize them. Pay attention to the following symptoms and talk to a doctor.

Milder Symptoms

In general, a cold tends to have milder symptoms than the flu. In addition, there are usually fewer complications from colds. However, some people experience serious colds that make it difficult to tell them apart.

Common Symptoms

If you have a cold, then a runny or stuffy nose is more common. Other common symptoms include sore throat, congestion and cough. Fever is more likely to occur in children than adults, and it is usually not high.

If you have the flu, then a fever is more common. It tends to be high and usually goes over 101 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, pain and body aches are more severe. You may experience extreme exhaustion, weakness and chest discomfort. When a person has the flu, coughing can also be severe.

Treatment Options

The most common treatments for colds include decongestants and medications to reduce fever. In some cases, pain relievers can help. The most common treatments for the flu include decongestants, pain relievers and cough medicine. In addition, medications to reduce fever and prescription antiviral drugs may help.


Complications are more likely to occur when a person has the flu. They can include pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis and ear infections. In serious cases, infections of the heart or brain may develop.

Prevention Tips

It is important to take steps to prevent the cold or flu. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid people who are sick and try to stay away from crowded locations.

Keep hands away from the mouth, eyes or nose. Fight the habit to touch the face during the day. Use utensils to eat so you do not have to use the hands.

Wash surfaces that are touched all the time with detergents that kill germs. Remember that doorknobs and other common household items can accumulate germs, so they need frequent attention. 

Consider these differences the next time you are wondering if it is a cold or flu. In some cases, it is possible to tell these medical conditions apart. Make sure to talk to a doctor about your concerns and seek treatment if the symptoms continue to get worse.   

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Snellville, Ga.

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