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No one likes getting sick, but occasionally it happens. And while colds and flus can sometimes seem similar (at least at first), they are different and might require different types of treatment. Colds and flus both infect the upper respiratory system. There are over 200 different viruses that cause colds, and three different families of the influenza virus. A lot of people refer to sicknesses as the flu when they are not actually influenza, which is different. Both colds and flus are caused by viruses not bacteria, which is why antibiotics are not used to treat the initial symptoms. Here are some ways to tell the difference between a cold and a flu, and what to do about them.

When you first feel a cold coming on you will most likely get a stuffy nose, runny nose, scratchy throat, and you might sneeze. Then symptoms might extend to watery eyes, a low fever, congestion in the chest, muscle aches, etc. The thing that usually distinguishes a cold is that it comes on gradually and can last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks.

A real influenza flu on the other hand will comes on suddenly with a vengeance and generally include a high fever with chills, fatigue and extreme exhaustion, and weakness, along with a runny nose, sore throat, etc. The symptoms of a flu usually last for about a week.

For the most part treatment of colds and flus in pretty similar, although there a few differences. When it comes to the flu some people might benefit from taking the antiviral medicine Tamaflu which can shorten the duration of the sickness but not entirely get rid of it.

As for general care, they’re pretty similar. Get plenty of rest, plenty of liquids, eat as healthy as possible, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Sore throats can be handled by gargling salt water and using throat lozenges, and over the counter medications can help clear congestion, body pain, and reduce fevers.

While colds and flus will generally run their course with proper rest and treatment, without it they can lead to other kinds of infections. Sinus infections are pretty common, and both colds and flus can lead to pneumonia. Initially a doctor may not even need to see you if you have straightforward cold or flu symptoms, but you should always be seen if you can’t get rid of a high fever, you have trouble breathing, severely swollen glands, if your symptoms don’t go away after ten days, or if they continue to get worse. At that point there may be a secondary bacterial infection going on which is treatable by antibiotics, and needs to be.

Many people wonder if they can workout while they are sick and the simplest answer is this…if your symptoms are all above the neck and you don’t have a fever then you’re fine. (Some mild exercise might even help.) But anything affecting your body or chest means no go. And you never want to workout with a fever because your body is already dehydrated.