Cold and Flu: What are the differences? - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Cold and Flu: What are the differences?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- During this time of year more people are waking up with runny noses and an aching body, not to mention coughing.

Most people don't know whether they have a cold or the flu, and differentiating between the two is not easy.

"Generally we see more cold cases, cold cases come in epidemics or come in spurts throughout the year whereas the flu is more in the winter time," said Dr. Darrell Ragland with St. Bernards First Care clinic.

And right now the flu season is at its peak.

"We are seeing many cases of flu, it's widespread in the community," Ragland said. "If you're running a high fever and have a cough you are much more likely to have the flu this time of year than a cold."

Both the common cold and flu have several similarities.

"They are both caused by viruses, they both usually last 7 to 10 days and both usually resolve, however, the differences are the flu is a much more serious illness," Ragland explained.

Serious enough to lead to pneumonia even death.

"Causing muscle aches throughout the body, severe headaches, severe soar throat and cough, high fever in the 102 103 range," he said. 

Whereas the common cold is more mild.

"With a cold you don't run a high fever, although you may run a low grade fever, with a cold you may have sneezing, sniffles, may have a mild headache but certainly not a high fever or a severe disease," Ragland said. 

A cold can be treated over the counter but if you develop flu-like symptoms you should see a doctor immediately.

"The flu can also be treated with medications when started early enough, usually within the first 48 hours of symptoms," he said. "This is considered a severe flu season, we are seeing lots of hospitalizations, lots of office visits, quite a bit of bit of second hand pneumonia, even some death have been reported."

Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses.  Ragland said fever and severity of symptoms are the key difference between the two.

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