How can you tell the difference between cold and flu?

How can you tell the difference between cold and flu?

What distinguishes a flu from a cold?
The flu wave 2016 is in full swing. Many people are currently suffering from fever, sore throat, headache and body aches. There's not always a flu behind it. In many cases, the symptoms are triggered by a simple cold.

Typical flu course this season
The flu is currently spreading in Germany, but at a comparatively moderate level. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) received 3,081 confirmed cases of influenza in the past calendar week. It is said that the number of cases in a week has risen above the 3,000 mark for the first time since the beginning of the year. According to the RKI, a total of 13,290 flu cases have been reported nationwide since the beginning of the season in early October. The course has so far been typical, as a spokeswoman explained. The order of magnitude is also within the scope of other years. However, this season the east of Germany is affected comparatively badly.

More swine flu cases this year
According to initial findings, many healthy adults with severe flu are becoming infected this season. According to the RKI, the reason why there are many more swine flu cases than in the previous year is probably the current dominance of virus A (H1N1) pdm09, which has only been circulating since 2009. The H1N1 virus is better known to many under the name "swine flu". It also appears to cause more severe disease outcomes among younger adults and people without a chronic medical condition than the A (H3N2) virus, which was common in the previous year. Recently, there have been increasing reports of severe influenza cases in intensive care units internationally, as RKI flu expert Silke Buda recently announced. In the more specific cases, it was mainly the H1N1 virus. Basically, the viruses change genetically from season to season. According to the RKI, the course of the flu wave is not foreseeable. It usually takes three to four months on average.

Are symptoms suggestive of a cold or flu?
How can you actually tell whether you are suffering from influenza or whether the symptoms are symptoms of a cold? The question of flu or flu infection is usually easy to answer. In a message from the dpa news agency, infectiologist Peter Walger from the professional association of German internists explains the difference - and when those affected should go to the doctor.

A few days of bed rest
A real flu caused by viruses occurs suddenly. "Usually you feel healthy in the morning and suddenly have a fever of 39 or 40 degrees in the evening," explains Walger. As a rule, symptoms such as headache, limb pain and bone pain as well as cough and runny nose are added. Those affected usually feel very sick. It is very important for self-treatment for flu and colds to drink a lot. "With fever, the body can quickly lose an additional two liters of fluid." You should also take care of yourself and spend a few days in bed. While some patients rely on antipyretic medications and pain relievers, Walger advises against combination preparations: "This mix contains important and unimportant individual ingredients, so correct dosing is impossible."

If you have a cold, you are not seriously ill
A flu infection, the "simple" cold can be caught several times a year. It is also a virus infection. Symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, headache and also body aches begin slowly and subside after a few days. "A cold affects your condition, but you are not seriously ill," says Walger. Affected people usually do not have a fever and do not need to see a doctor. Most people are advised against taking medication, and for mild complaints, home remedies for colds can often provide relief quickly.

Seniors and small children with a fever to the doctor
If the elderly have a high fever, they should go to the doctor earlier. This also applies to people with a basic illness such as heart or lung diseases. In addition, parents with young children should see a doctor if they suspect flu. In children with a fever, the question of when to see a doctor is answered depending on their age. In babies under three months of age, health experts recommend going to the doctor from a body temperature of 38 degrees. Children between half a year and two years of age who have had an elevated temperature for more than a day should also be taken to the pediatrician. Those who do not fall into any of the groups mentioned, but who have typical flu with a clear feeling of illness and additional complaints such as shortness of breath, circulatory disorders or dizziness, should definitely go to the doctor, according to Walger.

Antibiotics don't make sense
In addition, people who initially had a cold or less severe flu but then got a new flare after three to four days also belong in the hands of a doctor. This can be caused by pneumonia. There are special anti-virus medications for flu. "But they seem relatively weak," says Walger. For this reason, medical professionals tend to prescribe drugs for the individual symptoms. "Antibiotics make no sense for colds or flu, they do not work against viruses." There is at most one exception here if those affected have caught a bacterial infection in addition to the viruses. (ad)

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Video: Flu vs. Cold - How to Tell the Difference. McFarland Clinic