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Cold Vs. Flu: How To Know What’s Got You Feeling Under The Weather

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Cold and flu season is very much upon us. But how do you know which illness is afflicting you?

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, 37 states are reporting widespread flu activity. It is a much more serious infection than a cold, and can be treated.

But, Gomez reported, the symptoms are similar. You probably know the feeling: tired, runny nose and congestion, maybe feverish and just plain feeling lousy.

“There’s a lot of people sick. That’s how I spent my New Year’s Day,” said Jonathan Alvarado.

“Dizziness, a fever, a sore throat,” Fernando Rodriguez said.

So how do you know whether you have a cold or the flu?

“Something that comes on suddenly, like you’re being hit by a ton of bricks, may very well be flu,” said Dr. Susan Rehm with the Cleveland Clinic.

But even doctors can sometimes have a tough time telling a cold and the flu apart, so they’ve devised a simple acronym to help, Gomez reported.

Five signs that you may have the flu spell out F-A-C-T-S.

F stands for fever
A is for aches
C is for chills
T is for tiredness, and
S is for sudden onset.

“If you feel like you’re getting symptoms of the flu, you should contact your healthcare professional as soon as you can. You might be a candidate to take prescription anti-viral medication which specifically works against the flu,” Dr. Rehm said.

But those meds only help if you start them within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know whether you have a cold or the flu, Gomez cautioned.

The flu is what doctors call a lower respiratory infection, meaning it settles in your lungs and chest and causes a bad cough. That is one of the reasons it can cause serious illness like pneumonia.

Whether it’s the flu or a common cold, doctors recommend lots of fluids, aspirin or Tylenol for fever and aches and plenty of rest.

And either way, experts advise those with a cold or the flu not to go to work. Your illness will last longer and you’ll put your coworkers at risk of getting sick, Gomez reported.

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