What are the Cold and Flu?

A cold is a milder respiratory illness compared to the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can affect you for up to a week or two. The flu can also lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations. 

While most people associate the sneezy, sniffly cold with wintertime, you can get a cold during any season. On the other hand, flu season typically runs from November through March, although you and your family are at risk as early as October and as late as May.

What Are The Symptoms?

The common cold and the flu share many symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat. You may even experience fever, headaches, or body aches with both. However, unlike the flu, these symptoms paired with a cold are usually mild. 

A higher-grade fever often characterizes the flu with chills, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Additionally, flu symptoms tend to come on faster than cold symptoms, with the affected person feeling the impact over 2 to 3 hours. Colds may take 2 or 3 days to develop fully. 

Causes of the Flu or Cold

The common cold is caused by over 100 viruses and can be incredibly contagious. As a result, the arrival of cold weather keeping people inside and the start of a new school year often lead to a spike in cold cases each year. Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect how often people get a cold. 

The most common cold viruses survive better when humidity is low- during the year’s colder months. Cold weather also may make the inside lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

Two main viruses cause the seasonal flu: influenza A and influenza B. Unfortunately, these viruses can change and adapt to their environment, making them difficult to predict and prevent. Also, because the virus can change each year, you can become infected by the flu each year if you don’t get a preventative flu shot.

Treatment and Prevention of the Cold and Flu

The common cold can be difficult to fully prevent due to the vast amount of viruses that cause it. Best practices for preventing a cold are: 

  • Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick 

Colds are usually easily diagnosed by healthcare providers simply based on the symptoms that are present. Occasionally, colds require no medical treatment. If a cold persists or worsens for more than a few days, you should visit your doctor. A few ways to lessen the symptoms of a cold are: 

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Stay hydrated by drinking often
  • Take over-the-counter medications for cold symptoms 

The best way to prevent the flu is by receiving an annual flu shot. These shots change every year based on the projected flu adaptation and will help your body fight the virus if you come in contact with it. MainStreet Urgent Care offers flu shots each year and would love to give you your next flu shot. 

Antiviral medication is usually prescribed to those suffering from the flu. It is in your best interest to start these medications early to lessen the symptoms and decrease the amount of time you are sick. MainStreet Urgent Care offers both rapid flu testing and treatment of the flu

If you are suffering from a cold or the flu, or want to get your annual flu shot, MainStreet Urgent care would love to help. 

We highly recommend using contactless online registration to secure a spot in the queue while waiting for a text from us from the comfort of your home or vehicle. When registering online, please note that you will have 30 minutes to enter the clinic and check in with the front desk. We accept walk-ins, but registering online reduces in-clinic wait time.