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Is it a cold or the flu: can you tell?

Knowing the difference is important to getting the right treatment, but the outcome should be the same either way: don’t go to work sick!

Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu can be tricky; since both have fever, body aches, runny noses and coughs. You feel pretty poorly with either – but most people who have had the flu will tell you that they know they’re very sick. You have 48 hours to get started on an anti-viral (like Tamiflu) if it’s the flu. Those anti-virals work to help lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of flu. A cold is always milder.

Because colds and flu share so many symptoms, it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Most urgent care clinics and doctor’s offices can now do rapid tests to properly diagnose flu and then will prescribe the antiviral if it’s flu.


For both colds and the flu: don’t work sick. Don’t go back to work until fever free for 24 hours (with Tylenol or Advil keeping your temperature down). And remember: handwashing, handwashing, handwashing!


For more info, visit the CDC here.

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