RVNA Today: Cold or flu? How to tell

The flu and a common cold can have some symptoms in common, like exhaustion, sore throat and aches and fever, but there are also distinct differences. The most common cold symptoms are mild fatigue, fever, cough, sore throat, and head, chest or nasal congestion. A runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes are common, too. The common cold can’t be cured with medication, although medications can treat the symptoms. Rest and good nutrition seem to be the most helpful. A cold usually dissipates in a week or so.  

On the other hand, compared to a cold, the flu comes on quickly and strongly. The aches and pains of flu are typically deep muscle pains in large muscles such as in the legs and back. Antiviral medications prescribed within 48 hours of the onset of the flu can reduce the intensity of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

Both the flu and colds can lead to further problems, like pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis, but this is more likely with the flu. The best approach is to treat the symptoms and get plenty of rest. If you haven’t yet gotten a flu shot, it’s not too late. The flu usually peaks after the holidays and into February and March. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, so it’s best to get the shot as soon as possible. RVNA provides flu shots on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment on Thursdays till 6 p.m. Call 203-438-5555 to make an appointment.