Getting Ready for Cold and Flu Season (Part 2)
Last updated: October 2022
In my previous article, I wrote about how to prepare for cold and flu season. I shared practical steps to keeping your home safe and how to practice healthy habits. But sometimes, no matter what you do, you can still get sick.
What are some of the things you should look for if you think you are sick with a cold or the flu? Here are some of the most common flu symptoms you should watch for if you think you’re sick.
Common symptoms of the flu
The flu virus, or influenza, is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system – your nose, throat, and lungs.1 Being able to notice symptoms of illness can help you know when to talk to your doctor about care. Flu symptoms appear more quickly than cold symptoms. And they can be more serious, especially if you are young, elderly, or have a chronic illness.2
Being able to spot these symptoms can help you heal faster and hopefully not spread the virus to others:5-6
- Fever of 100F or higher.
- Chills. Chills are your body’s way of trying to warm up. When you get the chills, or shiver, your muscles relax, which cause them to contract. This movement causes your body to warm up. This may look like shivers, your teeth rattling because your jaw keeps trembling, or you have goosebumps.
- Dry cough (no mucous or phlegm). A cough is your body’s reflex of trying to rid your throat of mucous or phlegm. When you have a dry cough, you aren’t coughing anything up. This can cause irritation in your throat which makes it sore.
- Muscle aches and pains
- Extreme exhaustion
- Tiredness or weakness
- Chest discomfort
- Sore throat (sometimes, but not always)
- Runny or stuffy nose (sometimes, but not always)
If you have identified any of these symptoms, it is important to monitor them closely. Be sure to tell people you have had contact with to be aware that you may have unknowingly spread germs to them. That way they can monitor their health, too. But what’s the difference between cold symptoms and flu symptoms?
Common symptoms of a cold
A common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract (your nose and throat). Most adults get the common cold two to three times per year. And during flu season, sometimes the symptoms for a cold and the flu can overlap and be confusing. Here is a list of common cold symptoms to help people differentiate between the two:3-9
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Congestion. This happens when nasal and nearby tissue and blood vessels become swollen. They become swollen because of extra fluid, which can may you feel like your nose is stopped up. And it can sometimes include having a runny nose.
- Slight body aches and mild headache. Body aches and headaches can vary in intensity and frequency. They can range from dull aches that don’t go away, to sharp pains that are irregular.
- Low-grade fever (99.6F – 100.3F)
- Malaise. Another word for malaise is generally feeling unwell. This can look like discomfort or lack of well-being. It also doesn’t get better with proper rest, nutrition, and hydration.
Knowing the difference
It is important to know the difference between symptoms of the common cold and the flu virus. Being able to note which symptoms you are feeling will help when you communicate with your doctor. They will likely order tests to determine if you have the flu or common cold. But having knowledge about what to look for is essential.
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