Dear Doctor: Is it a Cold or the Flu?

It seems to happen every year around this time. You develop a runny nose or your throat hurts, and you wonder; is it a cold or influenza (flu)?

It is very important to be able to differentiate between the common cold and influenza. Although many of the symptoms may be similar, the treatments are very different, and the consequences of not receiving the necessary attention can be life threatening in some cases.

An important clue to determine which sickness you’re dealing with is how quickly your symptoms worsen. If the symptoms appear and worsen slowly, we should consider a cold. If the symptoms attack and worsen rapidly, we should consider influenza.

Your doctor can usually perform a test in their office that will help determine if your symptoms are related to a cold or influenza.

Both are contagious, but here are some important differences. If you have influenza, it is particularly important that you limit contact with others, because it can cause serious illness or even death in the most vulnerable people (such as pregnant women, children under 2 years of age, adults 65 years of age, and people with compromised immune systems). Influenza has an established course of duration, and the treatment should be delivered and guided by your doctor.

How to prevent colds and the flu:

Wash your hands frequently and avoid persons with symptoms when possible.  Maintain good overall health through proper rest, exercise, and food choices; a strong immune system helps prevent infection and reduce its duration.   

To prevent influenza, we recommend getting vaccinated against influenza every year, especially the most vulnerable populations such as children from 6 months, pregnant women, adults from 65 years of age, and people with chronic diseases.

Last year’s flu season was one of the most severe in years and caused approximately 80,000 deaths in the United States.

At Brookshire Family Practice, we are here to assist and take care of you. Contact us to receive your flu shot, and ask about any symptoms you are experiencing.

Dr. Clyde McMorris

Clyde McMorris MD PLLC is a modern family clinic in Houston, Texas, that offers comprehensive solutions to various health concerns. We are known for our patient-centered medical home process.