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Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Garland

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Is It the Flu? 

Knowing If It's the Flu or a Cold Is Key to Recovery

It’s one of those age-old questions. Soup or salad? Beach or mountains?…Is it a cold or is it the flu?

Both are prevalent in winter. “Kids have been in school long enough to transmit diseases, and when it’s cold, people congregate more in close quarters,” says John Wiprud, M.D., a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Garland.

But sick is sick, right? Does it matter if it’s a cold or the flu? Yes, Dr. Wiprud says. “The flu is more likely to cause complications like pneumonia or bronchitis.”

How Do You Tell?

Colds and flu share many of the same symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, headache, nasal congestion and fever. Colds tend to last a week or less and bring on lower-grade fevers than the flu, which often lasts seven to 10 days.

But the main difference between colds and flu is severity at onset, Dr. Wiprud says. “With flu, you usually go from well to very sick in a much shorter period of time,” he says.

What Do You Do?

If it’s a cold, rest, take medications to lessen the symptoms and let it run its course. But with the flu, see your doctor within 48 hours. He or she can prescribe an antiviral. It won’t cure you, but it can shorten the length and severity of illness.

If you do develop signs of pneumonia—shortness of breath or pain when taking a deep breath—or an earache, see your doctor again right away.

Cold and Flu Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands frequently and keep hands away from your eyes, 
        nose and mouth.
  • Use hand sanitizer when hand washing isn’t possible.
  • Avoid contact with those who are ill.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Schedule Your Flu Shot Today

      The best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. Call your doctor to get a flu shot. Don’t have a physician? Call 1-800-4BAYLO R for a referral or find your doctor online.