Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms vs. the Flu: Telling them Apart

upper respiratory infection symptoms

Upper respiratory infection symptoms (also known as the common cold) may look a lot like the flu, but it’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two.  Both can become very serious illnesses, but there are some marked differences between the two, and the treatment for both will be slightly different as well.

Of course if you are ever in doubt, you should see a doctor, but here are some general guidelines about how to tell the difference.

Upper Respiratory Infection vs. the Flu

  • With upper respiratory infections, most people do not run a fever, although it is possible.  On the other hand, people with the flu usually run a fever that’s below 102 degrees.
  • Headaches from a cold are usually very mild, but they’re often severe with the flu.
  • Body aches are more common with the flu and tend to be much more severe than with a cold.
  • Fatigue is a common early sign of the flu, but it’s not usually an issue with a cold.
  • Sore throat is common throughout the duration of an upper respiratory infection, but it’s usually just an early sign of the flu.
  • Sneezing and nasal congestion are more common with a cold than it is with the flu.
  • Coughing usually mild with a cold is mild but more severe with the flu.
  • Swollen glands in the neck are more common with an upper respiratory infection than with the flu.

The flu usually lasts up to a week, but an upper respiratory infection generally is shorter.

Treatment for Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms

Treatment for a cold is similar to treatment for the flu, although most of the time you won’t need to take as much time off for just a cold.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must stay hydrated.

This can be difficult with a cold because your head will constantly be draining, but now is not the time to skimp on your water intake.  Also be sure to get plenty of rest.  Taking a steamy shower can help relieve congestion.

If you have a sore throat, gargle hot salt water to soothe the pain.  Ginger tea can also help relieve some of those symptoms.

Preventing Upper Respiratory Infections

The best way to fight a cold is to never get one at all.  Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet will increase the effectiveness of your immune system.  Also make sure that you wash your hands regularly, especially when you are around people who are noticeably sick.

It’s important to take care of your body, both before you get sick and when you’re trying to recover.  Staying in good health all the time will reduce the number of times you become ill during a year.

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