Morning Rounds: Cold or flu?

NORFOLK, Va. - It's flu season, but there is also a nasty cold virus going around Hampton Roads.  News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light explained the different symptoms on News 3 This Morning.

"In general, flu symptoms are more intense than the common cold," said Dr. Light.  "A rapid flu test is the only way to differentiate a bad cold from the flu in many cases."

What are the main differences?

"Flu usually comes on quickly,  with a high fever,  fatigue,  generalized body ache (feeling like you got hit by a bus), cough, and headache" said Dr. Light.  "These symptoms can occur with the common cold, but are not as frequent, and often less severe."

He went on to say the onset of colds is slower and accompanied by sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and a mild fever.

When should you go the doctor?

"If you are experiencing flu-type symptoms, see your healthcare provider as early as possible," he stressed. "This will allow for testing to confirm the flu and start treatment."

The treatment, he explained, consists of anti-viral medications.  He said these medications work best when started within the first 48 hours.  If you have health issues like asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes, a comprised immune system,  or are over the age 65 or under 5 years old, the risk of complications from the flu is higher, he said.

Is there a particularly severe strain of a cold going around our area this season?

"There is a nasty cold virus going around the area," he said.  "The symptoms are similar to the flu without the fever and body aches.  This cold virus is also causing symptoms lasting ten days, which is uncommon for colds," he explained.

What can we do to prevent getting the flu or a bad cold?

"Good health habits, like covering the nose and mouth when coughing and washing hands, often can help stop the spread of germs," he said.

Dr. Light also offered a list of ways to cut your risk of contracting a cold or the flu:

  1. Avoid close contact
  2. Stay home when you are sick
  3. Cover your mouth and nose
  4. Wash your hands
  5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  6. Practice good health habits such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly
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