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Differentiating between cold and flu and when to go to the doctor

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Cold and flu season is in full swing, and many people have difficulty distinguishing between the two common winter illnesses.  The main way to tell the difference between a cold and the flu is severity of symptoms. Usually those experiencing cold symptoms, such as runny nose, sore throat and cough, still feel as though they can get through the day; however, those suffering from the flu often experience these same symptoms in a more severe form. In addition, in the instance of the flu, a more abrupt onset of high fever, cough and body aches usually occurs. High fever and body aches are symptoms not as common with a cold as they are with the flu.

Along with cold and flu season come other illnesses commonly seen during the winter months. Often, conditions such as sinus infections and bronchitis develop as complications from a cold or flu. If cold symptoms last more than 10 days, there is a high possibility those symptoms are being caused by a sinus infection or bronchitis.

The bottom line is that it is often extremely hard to distinguish between the various common winter illnesses and infections. If a normally healthy individual is experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms for more than seven days, it is important to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. Those at higher risk of flu-like complications, such as the very young, elderly and/or those with chronic medical conditions, should seek medical treatment within two to three days of onset of symptoms. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has an exceptional network of healthcare providers dedicated to providing care to individuals in the community during cold and flu season.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Ryan Grunz is a family medicine resident physician at Cone Health Family Medicine Center. He received a Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Georgia in 2009 and a Doctor of Medicine from Mercer University School of Medicine in 2014.