Decipher the Difference: The Flu vs. the Common Cold

Coughing, sneezing, aches, chills and a fever. This time of year, there is a good chance your nightstand looks something like a medicine cabinet and the floor near your bed is littered with used tissues. The news reports of death from the flu may have you worried about your health and praying that you have nothing more than the common cold. But, how do you know if it’s the flu or just a cold?

Symptoms of a Cold

The symptoms of a cold occur in a more gradual pattern than the flu. A cold rarely lasts more than a week and symptoms recede gradually in the same manner they appeared.

The onset of a cold will often begin with a scratchy throat that is eventually accompanied by a mild cough. Nasal congestion will appear clear and runny and evolve into a thicker and darker discharge as the cold progresses. Children may experience a fever, but in adults this symptom is rare.

Symptoms of the Flu

The onset of the flu is intense. High fevers and discomfort often come on suddenly and without warning. Symptoms include a fever, headache, body chills, sore throat, congestion, cough and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. The flu may also leave certain individuals susceptible to pneumonia, which presents with shortness of breath, in addition to the flu symptoms. This should be addressed immediately by a healthcare professional, as it can progress into serious complications.

Natural Remedies for the Cold and Flu

Dr. Bryan Warner of BodyLogicMD of St. Louis offers natural remedies for treating cold and flu symptoms.

  • Chicken soup. Studies have shown that chicken soup really is an ideal remedy for cold and flu season. Specific molecules in the broth help break down nasal mucous.
  • Fevers. “Allow fevers to happen,” says Dr. Warner. “Avoid suppressing them with acetaminophen or ibuprofen unless the symptoms are intolerable or treatment is necessary for sleep – at night.” Fevers maximize the white blood cell activity, allowing the immune system to kill the virus. Suppressing the fever limits immune system’s fight against the virus.
  • Vitamin D.  Taking 65 units of vitamin D per pound of body weight daily for one to two weeks has been shown to boost immunity.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is among the most potent and abundant antioxidants. Consume one to two grams daily until fully recovered.
  • Zinc. Supplement zinc citrate or other forms (avoid zinc oxide) as a lozenge, up to 9 mg, three times per day.
  • Raw garlic. Garlic is a powerful ancient herb. Consume raw as tolerable through the duration of illness.