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How to Tell the Difference between a Cold and the Flu

Typically the cold and flu viruses are lumped together due to their similar symptoms, but that’s a big mistake to make if you’re trying to overcome these dastardly bugs.

sneezingNow that the cold and flu season is in full swing, it’s a good time learn about the differences between these ailments, and how to treat them. Typically cold and flu viruses are lumped together due to their similar symptoms, but that’s a big mistake to make if you’re trying to overcome these dastardly bugs.

For starters, cold viruses are pretty much harmless. Research has found that when someone catches a cold, there is very little damage done to the human body, and your immune system’s response could be best described as “disproportionate.” In short, all of your cold symptoms are a complete overreaction. The common cold (which is actually over 200 different viruses) is more like a viral allergy, causing your body to flail out of control for no reason.

This means that you can feel free to use all kinds of over-the-counter remedies for your cold, including some allergy medicines like Benadryl. The flu on the other hand, should be treated with a little more caution. It’s important to remember that the symptoms our bodies exhibit when we’re ill, are the methods our immune system uses to combat the virus. So as bad as they make us feel, suppressing them may make the infection last longer. If you have the flu, skip the over-the-counter medicines and try some natural remedies.

At this point you may be wondering how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. While they are quite similar, there are several subtle differences to look out for the next time you are sick.

With the flu, you’re most likely going to end up with a really bad fever, typically in excess of 100 degrees. Colds on the other hand will sometimes cause a fever, but it’s usually far less severe. In addition, the flu is usually accompanied with long lasting fatigue, exhaustion, headaches, and muscle soreness, whereas colds usually don’t have these symptoms, or they are somewhat muted.


However, colds have their own list of severe symptoms that overshadow the effects of having the flu, and they typically involve anything related to your breathing. These include stuffy noses, sneezing, sore throat, and chest congestion.

On that note, if there’s one thing that cold and flu viruses share, it’s the ability to wreak havoc on your lungs. The key difference is that with the flu, you have the potential of getting even more sick. If the infection is particularly severe, or if you’re immune system is compromised in any way, you run the risk of having your flu turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. If unchecked, these conditions can send you to the hospital or worst.

So this cold season stay indoors, get plenty of rest, and stock up on your favorite cold and flu remedies. Hopefully you’ll be able to dodge these nasty viruses this year, but should you fall ill, study these tips and find out exactly what you’re infected with before starting your healing regimen. Knowing the difference between the cold and the flu is the first step towards overcoming them.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on December 29th, 2014

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