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Symptom check: Is it the flu, or is it a cold?

As the flu season arrives, it can be difficult to determine if one has a cold or the flu. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have come out with some guidelines for people to follow. The following, organized by symptom, can be of assistance in recognizing cold and flu.

Fever: cold — rare; flu, characteristic, over 101 degrees, lasting three to four days.

Headache: cold — rare; flu — prominent.

Muscle aches and pains: cold — slight; flu — usual, and severe.

Fatigue: cold — mild; flu — early, prominent, can last up to two to three weeks.

Stuffy, runny nose: cold — common; flu — sometimes.

Chest discomfort/pain: cold — mild to moderate; flu — common.

Cough: cold — common; flu — generally a dry, hacking cough.

Onset of symptoms: cold — gradual; flu — rapid.

Whether you have a cold or the flu, the best therapy is to stay home and treat the symptoms. Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, use over-the-counter drugs per their label, and avoid contact with others as much as possible. People with the following conditions should be evaluated by their provider or in the Emergency Room:

Children: fast breathing or trouble breathing; bluish skin color; not drinking enough fluids; not waking up or not interacting; increased irritability/not wanting to be held; fever with a rash; flu symptoms that go away and then return with a fever and worse cough.

Adults: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness; confusion; severe or persistent vomiting.

Anyone with an underlying health condition should talk with their health care provider about their particular concerns and what they should do.

Further information as well as a question and answer guide can be found on the CDC Web site at or

If you would like to speak with a person, the Colorado Help line is (877) 462-2911; the staff will answer any questions regarding the flu. The CDC is also answering questions at the following number: (800) CDC-INFO.