Colds and the flu often occur around the same time of year and both have similar, unpleasant symptoms. While it can be hard to differentiate between the two, it’s important to distinguish the cause of your symptoms to determine the best course of treatment.

The common cold
common coldThe most common symptoms of a cold are within the respiratory system and include a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, cough or chest discomfort. Treatment for these symptoms is available through over-the-counter medication designed to target the various symptoms.
The best way to treat a cold is to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, use over-the-counter medication and monitor for symptoms that last longer than five to seven days. If symptoms persist, your cold may have developed into an advanced respiratory illness in the form of an ear infection, sinus infection or bronchitis. If this occurs, you should seek treatment from a provider.

The flu
While both a cold and the flu generally attack the respiratory system producing many or all of the same symptoms, flu can affect the entire body. Additional symptoms associated with flu include a fever between 100 degrees and 104 degrees, headache, body aches, fatigue, exhaustion and nausea. With a mild case, flu can be treated with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medication targeting the symptoms. If your case of flu is more severe, your provider man with fevermay prescribe antiviral medications. However, antiviral medications work best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick. These medications are particularly important for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses.
As with a cold, if symptoms persist longer than three to five days, or become increasingly severe, see a healthcare provider. The flu can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia, and may require more intense medical treatment or even hospitalization.
Flu can be particularly dangerous for infants, pregnant women, older persons or anyone with chronic medical conditions, so they need to be evaluated quickly to be considered for antiviral medication. Preventive measures such as getting a flu shot for everyone in the household, washing your hands and staying home when you are ill will help to reduce the spread of flu.
The best way to avoid contracting the flu is to get an annual flu shot.

Four steps to avoid the flu
It’s important to learn and follow steps that can protect you and your loved ones from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists four important steps to reduce your risk of infection:
• Wash your hands consistently throughout the day. Hand washing is still one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent infection.
• Keep your hands away from your face. Microscopic germs find their way into our bodies most often through hand-to-eye, nose or mouth contact. Door knob and handles, office coffee pots and grocery cart handles can all carry the virus.
• Stay away from sick people. Individuals can still be contagious for 24 hours after a fever and other symptoms cease.
• Get vaccinated. Even when a vaccine is not a perfect match for a flu strain it still benefits the recipient by decreasing the intensity and duration of the illness and preventing complications.

If you do suspect you or someone in your family has the flu, Northwest Health Urgent Care is here for you – even in the evenings and on the weekends. No appointment is needed and the clinic is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays at 3721 E. U.S. 412 Hwy., Suite B, Siloam Springs (located less than one mile west of intersection Highway 412 and Arkansas Highway 59). You can schedule your visit online at