|Both colds and the flu are caused by viruses, and some of the symptoms are similar—sore throat, cough, headache and a general feeling of lousiness. But the flu is a much more serious illness. Dr. Richard Kiovsky, professor of clinical family medicine at the IU School of Medicine, will help distinguish between the two and provide tips to prevent becoming sick in the first place on this archived (see Web site at end of story) edition of Sound Medicine.
The flu, a gastrointestinal virus, causes severe headache, nausea, fever and an overall “hit by a truck feeling.” A cold by itself affects mainly the upper respiratory tract and will not produce severe body aches or a fever in adults. If you think you’ve got the flu, get to the doctor early for antiviral medication, which may actually help shorten the duration of the illness. For colds, the best treatments are rest and over-the-counter drugs to alleviate symptoms. Natural remedies like vitamin C and zinc may help you get better faster. Antibiotics are useless in fighting a cold, says Kiovsky. He also cautions that certain symptoms, such as a spiking fever or pain in your teeth or sinuses, signal something that’s not a typical cold or flu virus and should be evaluated by a physician.
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