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Cold or Flu? Know the Difference

November 18, 2016

You just woke up with a sore throat and runny nose. How do you know if this is just another winter cold or full blown flu?

Cold vs. flu symptoms

Colds tend to develop over the space of a few days, but flu symptoms can present and intensify in just a few hours. According to Dr. Marcus Romanello, Fort Hamilton Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, symptoms of the flu are much more serious than typical cold symptoms. Fever, body aches, shortness of breath, severe malaise, and for some people – the inability to eat or drink – could all be signs of flu.

Flu shot or no flu shot?

Doctors are often asked whether or not flu shots are effective. Dr. Romanello explains, “Flu shots are a best guess by the experts predicting which variant of the flu will come through in which season. Most of the time, they are very effective. Sometimes they can miss in terms of predicting which flu variant will be most predominant.”

Yearly flu shots can also help build your immunity to a variety of flu strains. “There are such things as flu variants that are incredibly virulent and can make people incredibly ill,” says Dr. Romanello, “and some flu variants are just minor annoyances.” You will be much better off getting a flu shot each year, as you never know which type of strain you may be exposed to.

When to see the doctor

When does the flu become serious enough that you should see a doctor? Dr. Romanello cites shortness of breath and the inability to eat or drink as severe symptoms that require a doctor’s care. Medical teams like those at Fort Hamilton Hospital can meet your needs no matter what your age, condition, or ability. Young children, those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, the elderly and infirm, or those who have a history of organ transplant or chemotherapy may be more at risk. These populations, in particular, should see a physician right away.