A cold is a milder respiratory illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.
Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, which will commonly go away after a day or two. Runny nose and congestion follow, along with a cough by day 3 through day 5. Fever is not common in adults. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.
Cold infections can happen any time of the year, and are spread through the air and close personal contact. You can reduce your risk of catching a cold by washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, and staying away from people who are sick. There is no cure for a cold. The best medicine is to be accurately diagnosed and get lots of rest and plenty of fluids.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by influenza viruses. It occurs seasonally (October through May) and is spread through droplets when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu symptoms can be mild to severe and include:
Children and some adults may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Young children, adults 65+, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic illnesses are all at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu. The best way to protect ourselves and those more vulnerable from the flu is to get an annual flu shot!
If you do come down with the flu, our providers can prescribe an antiviral medication proven to lessen the duration of your illness. When taken within 72 hours of starting your symptoms, antivirals can reduce the time you are sick by 1–2 days and help to prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia.