Symptom Cold Influenza
Fever, Chills Rare Common, 100-103 (kids)
Stuffy Nose Common Occasionally
Sore throat Common Common
Muscle pains Mild Severe
Headache Not usually Can be severe
Sneezing, watery eyes Yes Rare
Cough Mild to Moderate Can be severe, but dry
Also note influenza is different than the stomach flu; with that you have the nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea – not the cough and body aches.
As you can see the main differences are the fever, headache, muscle or body aches and the cough with influenza are all much more severe than with a cold. People generally feel very ill with influenza, ‘hit by a truck’ is often used to describe it.
Both illnesses are spread through the air by sneezing or coughing – please cover your mouth using the inside of your elbow to prevent touching something after you’ve coughed into your hand. Symptoms usually start suddenly for influenza. You are most contagious during the first 24-48 hours of symptoms and continue to be contagious until you are fever-free for 24 hours.
Things to watch for include: increased difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing. Both are viral illnesses, but the concern with influenza is the possibility of pneumonia developing. This is not typical with younger adults but we do want to really watch the following groups: > 65 years, children < 2 years, pregnant women, anyone with chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, or immunosuppressed individuals as they are at risk for having complications.
What can you do? The best thing for any viral illness is rest! We have a tendency to push through illnesses and go to work, school, church etc. anyway. There is discussion on the overtreatment of fevers; their purpose really is to fight infections and so letting a fever ride that is <101 is really reasonable in otherwise healthy individuals. Actually, it can be helpful to induce a fever at the onset of an illness by; layering up the covers, taking a hot bath, or (if you are lucky enough to have access) take a sauna. (Please be sure this is appropriate for you before embarking on this – not for pregnant women, etc. check with your provider if you are unsure.) For fever management ibuprofen or Tylenol are readily available.
Next, is fluids, fluids, fluids and I don’t mean Coke or Red Bull. Water or tea with lemon and honey are good.
Then my favorite – chicken soup!! Did you know somebody actually did a study and grandma was right; chicken soup is good for you!