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Telling the Difference Between Cold & Flu 

With the temperatures dropping and a steady forecast of rain on the horizon, your immune system may require a couple of weeks to adjust to the rapid change in seasons. Two of the more common viruses making their way through your schools, offices and communities this time of year are the cold and flu. Since these illnesses share similar seasons and have an overlap in symptoms, it’s easy to misdiagnose at first if you are relying on at-home treatments. However, learning the differences can keep you from incorrect treatment and prevent complications. 

How to tell if you have a cold 

Cold symptoms develop within three days after being exposed to the virus and can vary by case. A cold can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and can be treated with over-the-counter decongestant, fluids and plenty of rest. Symptoms of a cold may include: 

  • Runny or stuffed nose 
  • Chest and throat congestion 
  • Sore throat or hoarseness 
  • Coughing and sneezing 
  • Mild headache 

While most symptoms can be treated at home, more serious cases may require treatment at AFC Urgent Care Southcenter to test for other illnesses or infections. While complications of the cold are uncommon, symptoms including a persistent and high fever, shortness of breath or severe head or throat pain should be examined by a doctors as soon as possible. 

How to tell if you have the flu 

Influenza is in season starting in early fall, peaking in mid-winter before tapering off near the end of spring. The virus mainly affects the respiratory system. High-risk patients including pregnant women, younger children, the elderly and patients with weakened immune systems are more prone to developing complications as well as more acute symptoms. Flu symptoms include: 

  • High fever (over 100.4 F in adults) 
  • Headache that will not go away 
  • Full body aches 
  • Sweats and chills 
  • Congestion, coughing and wheezing 

The flu virus is easy to prevent, unlike many common seasonal illnesses. By getting a flu shot each year, you’ll be able to immunize yourself against the current strain for about six months, or the entirety of flu season. Make sure you get your flu shot as early as possible: the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect so your body can learn the virus. 

Key differences between cold and flu 

While there is an overlap in some symptoms, you can tell if you have a cold or the flu fairly easily. A cold usually starts with a stuffed or running nose, while the flu quickly progresses through its symptoms. The flu virus is more likely to lead to complications, especially in high-risk patients. Complications include inflammation of the heart and potential organ failure. If you start to experience complications from the flu, you need to visit your emergency room immediately for treatment. 

Cold & Flu Treatment in Southcenter, Kent, Tukwila, Renton & SeaTac, WA 

If you begin to develop a case of the sniffles or a high fever, visit AFC Urgent Care Southcenter for diagnosis and treatment of the cold or flu virus! Our walk-in urgent care center is open seven days a week, no appointment necessary! For questions, please call 425-970-8117.