Ease Cold & Flu Symptoms

Published: September 16, 2021

Joann Lodescar, MD, Stamford Health Medical Group

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Though COVID-19 still dominates headlines, seasonal cold and flu viruses are making their way into schools, homes, and workplaces, too. Learn how to recognize these common illnesses and care for yourself or a loved one who’s sick.

What are signs of the cold and the flu?

Sore throat, fatigue, and a stuffy nose are often the first signs of a cold or flu. These viruses cause an infection of the upper respiratory system: the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs.

Is it a cold or flu?

Symptoms are the easiest way to figure out which type of illness you have.

Cold Symptoms

It’s likely a cold if you experience:

  • Coughing
  • Mild chest discomfort or congestion
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose with yellow or green mucus
  • Watery eyes

Fever from a cold is uncommon in adults but may occur with children.

Flu Symptoms

You may have the flu if you experience:

  • Body aches
  • Chest discomfort and congestion
  • Chills or sweats
  • Coughing
  • Fever that can last up to four days
  • Headache
  • Long-lasting fatigue or exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

Cold & flu home remedies

Nothing can cure a cold or flu, but these things can help you find comfort:

  • Humidifiers to provide moisture in your home to reduce congestion
  • Ibuprofen to relieve pain; follow the box for directions on the correct dosage and frequency
  • Rest to allow your body to heal
  • Saline nasal drops and spray to help with stuffiness and congestion
  • Water, juice, broth, and non-caffeinated tea with lemon to help you stay hydrated
  • Warm liquids and honey to help congestion and reduce coughing

Should I see a doctor?

See a doctor if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Extreme weakness
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Dehydration (meaning you haven’t gone to the bathroom in eight hours or more)
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Symptoms that are worsening

Where to get care

Your primary care doctor is usually your best choice when you think you have a cold or flu. But if this professional isn’t available, use this care options guide to compare immediate care, walk-in care, and virtual care and find what’s right for you.

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