The cold and the flu symptoms have similarities, so it is important to know the difference between cold and flu symptoms. Although we love it when people take an interest in their health but, searching Dr. Google is not always a good idea.  People think the worst when they see all the information online and the information is often totally wrong. What people really need are correct facts about what to do,.and trained professionals who can correctly assess and treat you.  Rio Grande Urgent Care knows how to take care of you whether you have a cold or the flu.

The Difference Between the Cold and Flu.

Cold Symptoms

Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, congestion and a cough by the 4th or 5th day.  Sometimes you may even have a slight fever.  Children most likely have a fever with a cold. Your secretions may start clear and end up darker, but this does not mean you need antibiotics.  The “common cold” is really several hundred different types of cold viruses!

Cold symptoms may last for up to a week.  You are most contagious the first 3 days.  This is where hand washing is very important!  You should stay home from work or school so others do not get sick. If your symptoms persist beyond a week you should be seen by a provider.


Flu Symptoms

The symptoms of the flu are generally more severe and come on quicker.  Symptoms include sore throat, fevers, headache, muscle aches, congestion, and cough.

Some flu symptoms can improve over a couple of days but can last for one week or more. The young, elderly or people with lung or heart problems can sometimes develop pneumonia.  If you become short of breath, let your provider know.  Hand washing is very important to prevent spreading it to others.


When to get seen by a provider

If you have any of these symptoms – go, see a provider!


  1. Persistent Coughing: After two or three weeks of coughing, you could have bronchitis, which is still a virus, asthma can also cause persistent coughing as well as post nasal drip or sinusitis. All of which require different treatments. If you are wheezing and short of breath you need to see someone immediately!


  1. Persistent Fever: A fever lasting more than 3 days can still be a virus but could be a sign of a bacterial infection. Make sure you see a provider.


  1. Painful Swallowing: Although a cold and flu can make your throat sore, severe pain could mean strep throat, and it is essential for you to see a provider.


  1. Persistent Congestion and Headaches: Sometimes colds and allergies can lead to sinus infections (sinusitis). If after 2 weeks you have pain around the eyes and face with thick nasal discharge, you need to see a provider, however, most sinus infections do not need an antibiotic.



In adults, you may need medical treatment right away. Some of these signs include:

  1. Severe chest pain
  2. Severe headache
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Confusion


In children here are some signs of an emergency:

  1. Difficulty breathing or fast breathing
  2. Bluish skin color
  3. Not drinking enough fluids
  4. Lethargy and not acting normally
  5. Extreme irritability or distress


One easy way to prevent colds and flu is hand washing! Rub them together with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.  You should stay home from work or school, so others do not get sick. Another way to help prevent the flu is the flu vaccine.


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