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Whats the difference between a cold and the flu?

Posted Feb 01 2013 12:00am

Hey did you know that in the US we are experiencing the deadliest flu outbreak in a decade?
Sometimes, the winter influenza can present like a cold, but unlike the cold, influenza is a dangerous viral infection. For the safety of you and your family, know the difference and know the symptoms (available on the CDC website ).

The flu is caused by a different virus than a cold and typically comes on rapidly, producing several of the following symptoms:
  •  Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  •  Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
A cold, which is usually a pretty harmless upper respiratory tract infection, can present with similar symptoms to a flu, however they are less severe. The virus which causes the cold is usually weaker and doesn't cause dangerous complications such as pneumonia. A cold in general takes about a week or two to get over.

For both the flu and colds people tend to self-medicate with the following over-the-counter medication to treat the symptoms of the common cold:

Analgesia (pain killers)
Cough, cold and allergy products
Sore throat spray and lozenges
Nasal Sprays and nasal products.

Moms, if you are breastfeeding be careful. Just because these medications are sold over the counter without a prescription, does not mean that they are good or 100% safe to use when breastfeeding.
For more information about what medications are safe check out my "safety of over-the-counter medications and breast feeding" blog post  
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