Do I Have a Cold or the Flu?

Do I Have a Cold or the Flu?

You know when it’s coming!  That feeling that you are just not quite feeling right. Maybe it’s that itch in the back of your throat or the sneeze that just didn’t quite feel right. And with the latest flu crisis affecting hundreds of people in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and even Chicago how do you know which it truly is?

Do you go to the doctor or stay at home?

Symptoms of the Common Cold

Nasal congestion and a sore throat are very common symptoms for a cold. The sore throat should last only one to two days whereas the Nasal (Nose) Symtoms can last for 3 to 5 days. The total time of recovery for a cold is 5 to 7 days and you should consider yourself contagious for the first 3.

As the sickness progresses, the mucus in your nose may darken and discolor. This is normal, not an indication of a sinus infection in and of itself.


Complications of the common cold can be Sinus Infections, Astma Attacks, Brocitis, or Ear Infections.


There are currently no preventative treatments for the common cold. Frequently washing your hands and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze can slow down the spread and may prevent one from becoming infected.


There are currently no available cures for the common cold. There are many over the counter medications which may help aliviate some of the symptoms, but the best medicine is what mom usually prescribed – sleep and chicken soup.

Symptoms of the Flu

The symptoms of the flu tend to be more severe than those of a cold. It is a contagious virus which anti-biotics have no effect upon. If you have a chronic medical condition you may want to consider seeking immediate medical treatment. Usually the symptoms will come on suddenly, normally beginning with a fever.

Vomiting is not a common occurrence with normal seasonal flus but may accompany variations such as the H1N1 (Bird Flu) or the H1N3 that is plaguing the Northeast this winter.


Complications may include sinus infections, pneumonia and worsening of chronic medical conditions. We have had occasions to transport people via an air ambulance whose original conditions started with just the flu.


In addition to frequent hand washing, annual vaccinations with anti viral medications (flu shot) will help reduce the risk of catching the flue


Medications such as Tamiflu, Symmetrel or Relenza administered within 48 hours after onset of symptoms

Symptom Cold Flu
Fever Seldom NORMAL 100-102°F lasts up to 4 days
Headache Seldom NORMAL
General Aches & Pains Mild Sometimes Severe
Fatigue Mild May last up to 3 weeks
Exhaustion No Normal
Stuffy Nose NORMAL Sometimes
Sneezing NORMAL Sometimes
Sore Throat NORMAL Sometimes
Cough Mild sometimes Moderate NORMAL – can become severe

When to immediately seek medical attention

  • Severe Chest Pain or Headache
  • Constant Vomiting
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Confusion

In addition if a child exhibits any of these additional symptons seek medical attention immediately.

  • Bluish Color of Skin
  • Fever with a Rash
  • Not Hydrating (drinking fluids)
  • Failure to interact normally
  • Difficulty breathing

Mercy Jets

Worldwide Air Ambulance
Safety, Comfort, Expertise
Complete Continuity of Care


Mailing Address