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What Is the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

Colds and the flu are common seasonal ailments, both caused by bacteria and viruses that can affect your nose, sinuses, and/or throat. Colds come on slower, usually over a period of 2 days, and are characterized by a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. Symptoms typically last 3 – 10 days. The flu comes on fast and symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, weakness, and fatigue. Symptoms of the flu can last 7 – 14 days and may continue for up to 3 weeks. If you are feeling ill, we always recommend that you visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and find out about the treatment options that are best for you.


What are Some Ways to Relieve Nasal Congestion?

Nasal congestion due to a cold or sinus infection is uncomfortable and can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. CVS offers a variety of treatments that can help keep you comfortable, including nasal spray and nasal congestion medicine. Many people may find relief with a decongestant nasal spray, which works directly on nasal membranes and may bring relief faster than a pill formulation. However, if you are looking to treat multiple symptoms that come with a cold or the flu, you may want to try a combination pill such as Advil Sinus Congestion and Pain, which is formulated with more than one active ingredient in order to temporarily reduce multiple symptoms such as congestion, body aches, and fever. Be aware that nasal congestion medicine may interact with certain prescription drugs, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any nasal congestion medication or using a decongestant nasal spray.


What are Some Flu Medications & Treatments?

While most people will recover from the flu on their own, the symptoms can be uncomfortable. Cold and flu medicine can help treat your symptoms. Look for a multi-symptom flu relief formula for best results. Most flu meds are formulated for use during the day or at night. Daytime flu treatment is designed to temporarily ease symptoms like nasal congestion, coughing, minor body aches, fever, and sore throat. These formulations are non-drowsy, meaning that the ingredients are not likely to make you feel sleepy. Nighttime flu remedies are designed to help you sleep by treating the same symptoms. These products also typically include ingredients that may make you feel drowsy.


What Are Some Additional Flu Remedies?

In addition to OTC flu meds, there are other steps you can take to feel better. Drink plenty of fluids and make sure to rest. Warm liquids like tea can help soothe a sore throat, and a humidifiercan make breathing with a stuffy nose and scratchy throat feel more comfortable. Also make sure to wash your hands frequently to stop the germs from spreading to the people around you.


How Long Does the Flu Last??

The duration of the flu varies from person to person and depends on a variety of health factors. In general, the flu lasts approximately one to two weeks. Symptoms come on suddenly and then gradually improve over two to five days, but less severe effects such as fatigue and coughing may last longer.


How Long Are You Contagious with Flu?

When it comes to the flu, you are contagious for 1 day before symptoms start until about 5 to 7 days after your symptoms appear. Children may be contagious for an even longer period. It is important to stay at home and avoid spreading the virus to those around you. If you have a fever, it’s a strong sign that you are still contagious. Try to stay home until at least 24 hours after your temperature is back to normal. Also be sure to wash your hands regularly and sneeze or cough into your elbow. Because the virus is spread when sneezing or coughing sends small particles of infected saliva into the air, wearing a respiratory mask may also help stop the virus from spreading.


What to Do When You Have the Flu?

So you think you have the flu. Unlike a cold, your symptoms came on suddenly, and they include things like: coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and headache, chills, fatigue, and possibly a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Don’t panic. In most cases, the flu is a mild though unpleasant illness that passes on its own. However, it can be a good idea to confirm that you have the flu with your doctor. He or she can give you a professional diagnosis and treatment advice. In most cases, the best thing to do when you have the flu is to rest, take care of yourself, and stay home so that you cannot spread the virus to others. Over the counter medications like Tylenol Cold and Flu Severe may help temporarily relieve some of your symptoms, but they won’t help the illness pass any faster. You should be sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. However, the flu is different from the common cold, and in some cases, it can lead to deadly circumstances. If you are feeling very sick, are very concerned about any of your symptoms, and especially if you are in a high risk group, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. He or she can assess your symptoms and may recommend antiviral treatment or other medical interventions as necessary. Your doctor may also recommend a flu shot for next year.


What to Take for the Flu?

Over the counter cold and flu medicine may help you feel more comfortable by temporarily controlling your symptoms. The right flu medicine for you will depend on your symptoms. For body aches or a fever, you can take a pain reliever such as Advil to help relieve your pain and lower your fever. To get temporary relief from an unproductive, constant cough, you may want to try an over the counter cough medicine. A decongestant pill or nasal spray may help with nasal or sinus congestion, while an over the counter antihistamine may help with a runny nose, postnasal drip, and itchy or watery eyes. For a scratchy throat, try warm tea or sore throat lozenges, which may bring some temporary relief.


It is important to be aware that many over the counter flu remedies contain multiple active ingredients. If you are unsure if it is safe to take two medications simultaneously or if you are worried about prescription drug interactions, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any flu medicine. Additionally, it is important to know that over the counter treatment is not right for everyone. If your symptoms are severe or if you are in a high risk group, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. He or she may choose to prescribe an antiviral treatment for the flu, such as Tamiflu, which works best when administered at the earliest stages of the illness. Keep in mind that antiviral treatment for the flu is not appropriate for everyone and is not available over the counter. Your doctor can advise you as to what the best course of treatment is for you.


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