How to tell if you have cold or flu

BALTIMORE - The flu season is here. So how do you know if you have the cold or flu?

Here's the best way to tell.

If it's the flu, you may feel fine one hour, but it can all go downhill the next.

Dr. Hunter Spotts with Patient First says, "You can get an abrupt onset of a high fever of 101 to 104. Severe cough, joint aches, muscle aches, chest discomfort, and you can have fatigue up to 3 weeks."   

Dr. Spotts says the difference between the cold and flu can be subtle, but if you can get to a doctor as soon as flu symptoms start, you can feel better a lot sooner.

He says, "If the symptoms are caught within the first 48 to 72 hours, certain medicines can be prescribed that can reduce the duration of the symptoms or reduce the severity of the symptoms."  

And if you haven't gotten your flu vaccine yet, Dr. Spotts says it's not too late.

"It does take about 2 weeks for full immunity to kick in once you get the flu shot and it's really not too late. You can still be protected for this flu season."  

For the elderly and the young, the flu can be more dangerous because their immune systems aren't as strong. If you suspect the flu, see a doctor right away.

Dr. Spotts says, "With young kids the complications can include respiratory symptoms even pneumonia, so it is important to see the doctor for that age group."  

The best way to protect you and your family from the flu is to follow good hygiene. "When you cough and sneeze, cover your mouth, wash your hands, get plenty of sleep, eat a good diet."  

Exercise helps too. It boosts your immune system.

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