Took this out of Community for general info.
‘Tis the season…
Communications: Patient Education
Patient Education: Dealing with the Winter “Crud” – Is It The Flu or A Cold?
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians
Strong Medicine for Minnesota
Winter is here. You’ve stocked up on tissue and chicken soup waiting for that usual illness to strike. When the “crud” does target you or a member of your family, you’re often left wondering if it is the common cold, a case of influenza or something else? And more importantly, what can you do to make yourself or a loved one feel better?
“Colds and the seasonal flu are both respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses,” said Dr. Glenn Nemec, a MAFP member and a family physician at Monticello Clinic in Monticello, MN. “These viruses change constantly forming different strains of viruses which is the reason people can get sick year after year.”
Because colds and the flu are both infections of the respiratory tract, which include the throat, nose, airways and lungs, symptoms are sometimes similar enough that patients aren’t sure what they have. Generally, Dr. Nemec says the flu makes a person feel much worse than the common cold does. Family physicians recommend patients use this list of differences listed below to help distinguish between a cold and a case of seasonal influenza.
Onset of Illness – A cold develops over a few days, while flu symptoms come on suddenly and severely.
Fever – Colds rarely cause fevers and if they do it’s usually under 102° F. The flu almost always causes a fever.
Body Aches and Chills – These are mild with a cold, but often severe with the flu. It makes your entire body feel sick.
Congestion/Sniffles – A runny or stuffy nose and sneezing is likely with a cold, but not typical with the flu.
Cough – A person with the flu may have a mild cough with a cold, but a dry cough is often intense with the flu.
Headaches – Headaches are rare with a cold, but common with the flu and can be severe.
Exhaustion – A cold can sometimes make a person feel tired. Fatigue with the flu is usually extreme.
Appetite – A person’s appetite is typically not affected with a cold, but it is often decreased with the flu.
Being able to tell the difference between a cold and the flu is important because it helps a patient decide if self-care is appropriate. “They know they feel lousy, but does that warrant a trip to see their family physician, or do they simply need some rest and TLC to help their bodies fight off the illness,” said Dr. Nemec. “This can sometimes take a week or more.” As a reminder, a fever is the body’s natural response to fight sickness so unless a person is extremely uncomfortable, it is sometimes best to let the fever run its course.