The Best Way to Tell the Difference Between Fever, Cold, or Flu

fever cold or flu

Are you experiencing symptoms of a fever, cold, or flu? If so, how can you tell the difference?

It’s important that you know what you’re going through, so you can get the right treatment and protect others at the same time. Sometimes, you may need emergency care.

We’ll walk you through what you need to know so you can spot the differences.

Determine Your Symptoms

The first step is to examine your symptoms. Do you have flu-like symptoms, like fever and chills? Or do you simply have a runny nose and feel drained?

Here’s what you need to look for, so you can differentiate between colds and flu.

Common Flu Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Chills and shaking
  • Dry cough
  • Moderate or high fever (not everyone experiences fever)
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite

When you have the flu, the symptoms may come on suddenly or unexpectedly. Certain types of flu can be dangerous, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like difficulty breathing.

When to see a doctor or seek emergency care:

  • You’re having trouble breathing
  • You feel dizzy
  • You have chest pain
  • You feel confused or disoriented
  • You’re experiencing severe neck pain
  • If you fall unconscious or faint
  • If you have extreme or persistent vomiting

Patients over 65 are at high-risk, as are those that have certain medical conditions like heart disease or asthma. In this case, you should seek medical care immediately.

There’s no way to know the exact numbers when it comes to yearly flu cases. The CDC estimates that since 2010, the flu has caused somewhere around 9.3 million and 49 million illnesses each year. Sometimes, this results in hospitalizations.

Common Cold Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling tired, but not severe fatigue

There are many symptoms that you may get with either the cold or flu that are the same or similar. So how can you tell the difference?

Unlike the flu, colds come on gradually. Cold symptoms are also milder than those of the flu.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Do you have a fever with a cold or flu? With colds, fevers are usually mild, if they appear at all. Children are more likely than adults to get a fever from having a cold.

If you do have a fever, make sure to monitor it. A high fever is one flu symptom that can quickly become dangerous if you don’t take action. 

When you have the flu, your fever may rise over 102°F. Prolonged fever above this point, as well as other dangerous symptoms such as chest pain or persistent vomiting, should prompt you to call a doctor.

You should seek medical care for children if they have:

  • High fever over 103°F
  • Prolonged fever (over three days)
  • Earaches or ear drainage
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Blueish tint to the skin
  • Trouble waking up
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritability

You should also call a doctor if their chronic medical conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, get worse. In addition, look for symptoms that seem to get better and then return worse than before.

Recover Sooner From Fever, Cold, or Flu

Once you understand whether you have a fever, cold, or flu, you can work on getting healthy again. If you have a cold or the flu, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, get plenty of rest, and take over-the-counter medications as necessary.

If you have the flu and you’re experiencing complications, or your symptoms aren’t getting better, get medical help. Coastal Urgent Care of Houma is here for you. Call us to get help or to schedule an appointment today.