Is it a cold or the flu?

Is it a cold or the flu?

With the arrival of this year's cold and flu season, many people who may be suffering from cold or flu symptoms don't have the time and funds to run to the doctor at the first sign of a runny nose or scratchy throat.

Cold and flu symptoms are very similar, making it difficult to determine if you need medical attention or over-the-counter medicines. So how do you know if your symptoms indicate a passing cold or a more serious case of the flu?

Check your symptoms against this list to help determine if you should pay a visit to your primary care provider for a professional diagnosis and treatment:

Stuffy nose, sneezing and/or sore throat -  These symptoms typically characterize the onset of the common cold,  not influenza. If these are your only symptoms, you likely have a cold and immediate medical attention may not be necessary.

Over the counter medication in conjunction with plenty of rest and staying well hydrated can typically relieve a cold in a few days.

High temperature - The Mayo Clinic cites high fever as one of the biggest differences between cold and flu symptoms. If you are unsure whether or not to visit the doctor, try taking your temperature.

If your body heat registers between 100 and 102 degrees and stays that way for more than two days, it's a good idea to see your doctor or primary health provider. Common colds rarely go hand-in-hand with high fever.

Headaches or lingering body aches-  A headache is typically a common symptom of the flu, but not always for a cold. General aches and pains, along with weakness and fatigue, are also good indicators that you may have the flu.

If you experience high fever, headache, general body aches, fatigue and weakness - which are all indicators that you've contracted the flu - seek the attention of a doctor before any further complications develop. If untreated, flu symptoms can result in bronchitis of life threatening pneumonia.

If you're a resident of New York City or the tri-state area but don't have an established relationship with a primary care provider, Angie's List provides health consumer ratings and information for more than 4,300 family doctors in the area.

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