“I used to get colds often, especially around exam times. Now I make sure I wash my hands a lot. I think this helps me get fewer colds.”
– Sylvia P., Brooklyn College
Colds and seasonal flu are the main reason students miss class due to illness. Both are caused by viruses. Flu is short for influenza, a virus that affects your upper respiratory system. “Stomach flu” is stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. caused by a virus in the stomach and intestines. For these symptoms, see “Abdominal Pain,” “Diarrhea,” and/or “Vomiting & Nausea.”
Is it a cold or is it the flu? See the chart below to learn the differences between the two.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly and affect the body all over. Cold symptoms mostly affect you above the neck. When you get the flu, you are also more prone to bronchitis, sinus, and ear infections.
|Signs & Symptoms||Cold||Flu||H1N1 Flu|
|Fever/Chills||Rare/not common||Common. Can be a high fever.||Usual. 20% of people may not have a fever.|
|Headache||Not common||Common||Very common|
|Runny, stuffy nose.||Common||Common||Not common|
|Sore throat.||Common||Common||Not common|
|Cough||Cough with mucus||Often. Dry and hacking cough.||Usual. Dry cough without mucus.|
|Diarrhea/Vomiting||None||Not common. More likely to occur in children than adults.||Sometimes|
|Chest discomfort||Mild to moderate||Moderate||Often severe|
Bird flu. This is caused by avian influenza viruses which normally infect wild birds. Contact with infected birds or surfaces they contaminate can spread these viruses to humans. The viruses may be able to change to a form that could spread from person-to-person and result in a widespread infection in humans.
Pandemic flu. This is a term for any type of flu that causes a global outbreak of serious illness that spreads easily from person-to-person.
Self-care (see below) treats colds and most cases of the flu.
Prescribed antiviral medicines may make flu symptoms milder and help you recover sooner if started within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. Antibiotics do not treat cold and flu viruses.
With or following the flu, do any of the following symptoms of meningitis occur?
After a recent case of the flu, are any of these signs of Reye’s Syndrome present?
With the flu, do you have severe or increasing shortness of breath or severe wheezing?
Do you have 2 or more of these signs and symptoms of a sinus infection?
With a cold or flu do you have any of these problems?
Have you had a cold or the flu for more than a week and not felt better using Self-Care? Or, do you have new symptoms?