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.
It’s likely a cold if you experience:
- Mild chest discomfort or congestion
- Mild fatigue
- 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.
You may have the flu if you experience:
- Body aches
- Chest discomfort and congestion
- Chills or sweats
- Fever that can last up to four days
- Long-lasting fatigue or exhaustion
- Loss of appetite
- 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)
- 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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