Knowing if you have a cold or the flu

When cold and flu season hits, every sniffle and cough could have you wondering which infection you have. Generally, telling the difference between the two based on the symptoms is difficult, and you may need to see a physician to get a definitive answer. Because the flu can lead to serious health problems that require emergency care , it can be helpful to know which illness you have.

What symptoms do colds and the flu cause?

Because colds and the flu are both viral, respiratory infections , they cause very similar symptoms. Both can cause:

  • Runny or stuffy nose (although this symptom is slightly more common with colds)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Fever (although this symptom is more common with the flu)

Not everyone with a cold or the flu will experience all of these symptoms. Typically, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.

Does the color of phlegm hold any clue?

Many people have heard that they can tell if they have a cold or the flu based on the color of their phlegm. As discussed in the video, clear phlegm is often associated with allergies, while phlegm that is green or yellow usually indicates that you are fighting off some kind of infection, like the flu or a cold. Brown or reddish phlegm can indicate a serious infection.

The color of your phlegm can be a clue that you have an infection, but it generally doesn’t offer a clear answer as to whether you have the flu, a cold, or another viral or bacterial illness.

How can I get a definitive answer?

There are a number of different tests your physician can use to determine if you have the flu. Generally, these tests are most reliable during the early onset of symptoms.

Your physician may not recommend flu testing unless you have a high risk of complications. For instance, if you have diabetes or another chronic health condition, the flu may be more dangerous for you. In these cases, knowing for sure if you have the flu will help your physician create a treatment plan.

Whether you need emergency care in West Hills for your symptoms or a physician who help you manage your respiratory infection, choose West Hills Hospital & Medical Center for your treatment. Call us today at (818) 676-4321 for more information about emergency services or a referral to one of our providers .

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