How do I know which one I have?

The symptoms of a cold or the flu can be very similar, making it hard to tell which one is making you feel miserable. Typically, the common cold lasts 7-10 days, and symptoms of a cold are milder than symptoms of the flu.

Symptoms of a common cold:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • A slight headache or mild body aches

In adults, experiencing a fever with a cold is quite rare. It's possible for children to have a cold with a fever.

Symptoms of the flu: 

  • Fever above 100 degrees F
  • Chills
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and headaches

More common in children, nausea or vomiting can also be a symptom of the flu.

What is the best way to treat a cold or the flu?

Wondering how to combat a cold? It's important to get enough rest, stay hydrated and sip warm liquids. Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may temporarily reduce your symptoms, but they generally do not shorten the duration of a cold or prevent a cold.

The best treatments for the flu are to get plenty of rest and make sure you're getting enough liquids. The flu is highly contagious. Someone with flu-like symptoms should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever has subsided, except to receive medical care.

When should you see a doctor if you have a cold or the flu?

Having a cold or the flu can turn serious for someone who is at high risk for cold or flu-related complications. For these people, having the flu could potentially lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and other health issues.

When to see a doctor if you have a cold:

  • Symptoms persist longer than 10-14 days, or symptoms worsen
  • Adults with a fever of 102° or higher and children with a fever of 103℉ or higher
  • Severe or worsening headaches
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Sore throat or cough that won't go away

When to see a doctor for the flu:

  • Your fever isn't getting better
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Persistent or worsening cough or headache
  • High-risk populations include children under 5, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions

Emergency medical care in South Denver

It's important to know if you or someone you care for is potentially at high risk for cold or flu-related complications. If you or someone else is experiencing serious cold or flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Located in Lone Tree, Sky Ridge Medical Center provides regular and emergency care for patients and residents in the South Denver area.