Do I have the Flu or is it Just a Cold?

The 2018 flu (aka influenza) season is here. Family gatherings in November and December carried germs near and far into our cozy homes as we hugged our loved ones. Just about now many are starting to ask, is this sneezing and stuffy nose just a cold or do I have the flu? The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention share that the cold and the flu are both viral cause different symptoms. When you have a cold, you might have a runny or stuffy nose. With the flu you will have more symptoms like you might feel feverish or have a fever, a cough or a sore throat, headaches, body aches, fatigue, and like a cold you might have a runny or stuffy nose. Everyone experiences the flu differently, and not everyone gets all the symptoms.

Should I go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room if I think I have the flu ?

Because the cold and the flu can cause similar respiratory problems, like a runny or stuffy nose, many people ask if they should go to Urgent Care if they are not sure if they have the flu or the common cold. If you feel feverish or have a fever, a cough or a sore throat, headaches, body aches, fatigue, and a runny or stuffy nose, these are considered non-emergency symptoms of the flu. You should stay home, rest, and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Emergency warning signs of flu sickness can include trouble breathing, fast breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, confusion, severe vomiting. For a full list see The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick? If you have emergency symptoms of the flu virus, you should seek emergency care immediately. Most people with non-emergency flu symptoms will recover in 2-14 days.

Will I get the flu?

The flu is a respiratory illness that affects people differently. While medicine cannot yet predict if you will get the flu, we do know that yearly flu vaccination is one of the best preventative measures against getting the flu. For children younger than five years of age, adults older than 65 years of age, pregnant woman, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and people with medical conditions getting the right vaccination is critical because having the flu can be accompanied by complications. Everyone benefits from flu vaccinations.

Is the flu a serious illness?

People with heart disease are at an increased risk of complications from flu, and in some individuals having the flu can mean a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. Do you know the signs of a heart attack? Do you know what to do if someone stops breathing? Get educated about saving someone's life. Visit The Beating Heart Center to get the skills to save a life today.

Julie Ellison, PhD