MetroHealth Beachwood Health Center
Is It a Cold or the Flu? Dr. Stephen Corfias Explains
Not sure if you have a bad cold or the flu? It’s important to know, because the flu can result in serious health issues, including pneumonia.
- Colds usually start with a sore throat that typically goes away after one or two days
- Runny nose and congestion follow; secretions are watery the first few days, turning thicker and darker as the cold progresses
- Coughing may occur by the fourth and fifth days
- Fever is uncommon for adults, but more common with children
- Symptoms last for about a week
If these symptoms do not get better after a week, call your doctor. Also, in general people are contagious for the first three days of a cold, so be sure to wash your hands often.
Symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a cold, but come on quickly and are usually more severe. With the flu, one may experience a fever (100° to 102° F). Headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea may also be present.
Flu symptoms usually improve within one to five days, but the flu can make you feel run down for longer period of time.
About Pneumonia: A common complication of the flu is pneumonia. Watch for shortness of breath or a fever that returns after a day or two with no fever.
When to Call the Doctor
Seek treatment from your physician when you experience the following:
- Fever greater than 100° F (for adults)
- Chest congestion
- Worsening symptoms
- Lack of improvement over a week
- Vomiting and headache