Cold or Flu? Here’s How You Can Tell

Are you sniffing, sneezing, coughing and aching? Yes, it’s that time of year—cold and flu season. And yes, both these viral illnesses can cause similar symptoms, but to get better faster, you’ll want to treat each differently. Take these quick quizzes to test your cold and flu smarts—and read on to find out the answers and how you can beat the sniffles this season.

Quick Cold Quiz

  1. True or False: Cold symptoms usually start with a sore throat.
  2. True or False: Cold symptoms include stuffy nose, sore throat and cough.
  3. True or False: Colds typically last about a week.


Your Cold Answers
If you answered True to all of the above answers, you’re right! Colds are typically considered a milder viral illness and start with a sore throat, followed by stuffy nose, sneezing and cough. If fever is present, it’s usually fairly mild and rarely goes above 101 degrees. Along with the tissues and cough lozenges, you’ll want to calm your coughing and sneezing with oral or nasal decongestants (which help dry up mucus) and antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec, which won’t make you groggy like older-generation medications like Benadryl. Hot tea with honey or another warm drink can soothe coughing as well as medications, but if you need over-the-counter help, look for a medication with dextromethorphan and/or guaifenesin.

Quick Flu Quiz

  1. True or False: Flu symptoms come on like a bolt of lightning.
  2. True or False: Flu symptoms include fever, headache, aches and pains, fatigue, cough and sometimes a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat.
  3. True or False: If you have the flu, you’ll usually have a fever of 100 to 102 degrees.
  4. True or False: Flus usually last about a week or more.
  5. True or False: Flus can become life-threatening.


Your Flu Answers
If you answered True to these above statements, guess what? You’d be right again. Flus strike without warning, making you feel achy, feverish and miserable at the beginning, with symptoms lasting about a week or more. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve aches and pains. For sneezing and coughing, try the remedies listed above.

Be Cautious
It’s important to note that doctors do caution patients about multi-symptom medications. While these are great treatments if you have all the symptoms listed, you run the risk of medicating yourself for symptoms you don’t have if you reach for a multi-symptom solution routinely. Instead, pick a product or products that treat only the symptoms you have to reduce the risk of overmedicating yourself. And if you need advice, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

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