Cold or Flu: What Should You Do?

As the holiday season approaches, there’s unfortunately more than good cheer in the air. The dreaded cold and flu season is upon us once again. As the temperature drops and we spend more time indoors, we become easier targets for circulating germs. Understanding the differences between cold and flu viruses and when to seek treatment can help keep you and your family healthier this during cold weather months.

How can you tell if it’s a common cold or the flu?
The flu and common cold share many symptoms which can make them tricky to tell apart. With either infection you may experience cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. However flu symptoms often begin more abruptly and are more intense than cold symptoms, while a stuffy or runny nose can be more indicative of a common cold. A health care provider will use a special test to determine for sure if you have the flu.

Why should you care?
While colds can be very unpleasant, they generally do not result in serious health problems. The flu, however, is associated with serious complications. While most people with the flu will recover within two weeks without any serious issues, some individuals develop complications that can be life threatening. These include pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, sepsis, and multiple-organ failure. The flu can also worsen chronic medical conditions, like asthma or heart disease. Because flu complications can be so serious, it’s important to get vaccinated before flu activity increases where you live.

When should you seek medical attention?
Prompt treatment at the onset of symptoms using antiviral drugs can help lessen your symptoms, shorten the length of your illness, and reduce your risk of serious complications. You should seek medical attention if you have flu symptoms and are at high risk of serious complications; this includes children younger than 5 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions. If you are not at high risk but your symptoms are severe, you should also seek medical treatment. Even healthy young people are not immune from serious flu complications, so if you are in doubt, give your health care provider a call.

We hope this information will help keep you healthy this holiday season, but if you need medical attention, Urgent Care at Health Trust Physicians Clinic is available Monday-Friday 7 am to 7 pm and 8:30 to noon on Saturdays. Check our Facebook page or call 515-462-2950 for holiday hours.