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Dr. Drew

Driven by current events, "Dr. Drew" on HLN focuses on the human - and human behavior - at the center of the story.

Is it a cold or the flu?

  • What are the symptoms of a cold or flu?
  • The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.
The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

Flu season is here. We hear about it every year around this time. 

But sometimes it's a little confusing to sort it all out. What should or shouldn't we be doing? Should we get a flu shot or not?  Is it a cold or the flu?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu develops when a flu virus infects your respiratory system, including your nose, throat, bronchial tubes and possibly the lungs. A cold virus usually infects only your upper respiratory tract: your nose and throat.

Flu symptoms, according to WebMD, include:

  • A fever of 100 degrees F or higher -- or you feel feverish -- you don't always get a really high fever
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

Perhaps, you have a raspy cough? Can't stop sneezing? Maybe you feel achy and fatigued. Chances are you have a cold.

As noted on WebMD, cold symptoms include:

  • Sneezing and a runny nose
  • Feeling tired
  • Mild cough
  • No fever

Now for a little “True or False” (

1)    The flu isn't serious?


According to government resources, most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it's not uncommon to feel rundown for a week or more. You can have complications from the flu, which could manifest as a bacterial infection, pneumonia or bronchitis.
2)    Flu viruses are contagious?


If you come in contact with someone who has the flu, you have about three or four days of incubation before you have it, more than likely you will sneeze or wipe something or touch something and spread it and that's how it spreads rapidly.
3)    If you do get the flu, ride it through?


Once you have the flu, you pretty much you have the flu. Your body is going to ride itself out until it overcomes the flu virus. So treat it symptomatically. And if you have a cough, you can use over-the-counter cough medicines.
4)    You can protect yourself against the flu?


Wash your hands and get a flu shot. Also, you can ask your doctor about FluMist® as an alternative to the shots.  This is sometimes easier on the kids.  And for more information, including which type of vaccine is suitable for you, go to

After getting the flu shot, it takes about two weeks to develop immunity.

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