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Is it a cold, the flu or something else?

What's Going Around week of December 26th, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We’ve all been there – you wake up with a sore throat, you have a cough or a fever and just don’t feel quite right.

But sometimes you’re not sure – is it a cold, a flu or something else?

Take note of symptoms

Susan Rehm, M.D. of Cleveland Clinic said it’s important to take note of the exact symptoms to get the best and quickest diagnosis.

“There are different, many different respiratory viruses in addition to influenza, so it’s important to differentiate, if you can, the difference between influenza and other respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Rehm.

Dr. Rehm said it can be tough to know for sure which is which, so it’s important to contact a doctor right away to make sure it’s not an infection that requires antibiotics.

Even if it is a flu, Dr. Rehm said people may be able to benefit from taking prescription anti-viral medication, if symptoms are caught within the first 48 hours.

Check the F.A.C.T.S.

To do a quick symptom check for flu think F-A-C-T-S.

F = Fever
A = Aches
C = Chills
T = Tiredness
S = Sudden onset of symptoms

Dr. Rehm said the ‘sudden onset’ is particularly important as it is a trademark symptom of influenza, whereas colds usually begin with a stuffy nose or sore throat and then progress gradually.

Not everything is the ‘flu’

Dr. Rehm said many people have a tendency to blame a lot of other illnesses on the ‘flu’ – adding to the confusion - so it’s important to know what true flu symptoms are in order to get appropriate treatment.

“We tend to call a lot of things the ‘flu,’” said Dr. Rehm. “As a matter of fact, people get diarrhea and they say they have the flu. Well, the flu is a respiratory illness, it’s not a gastrointestinal illness.” 

Dr. Rehm recommends those who feel the sudden onset of flu symptoms, or who are experiencing any respiratory problems, to call a doctor to help get them an accurate diagnosis and on the road to recovery.