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Cold, Flu and Gastroenteritis – What are the differences?

This is a common time of year for people to get sick with a variety of illnesses. Understanding the differences between a cold, the flu, and gastroenteritis can help you determine what kind of care you need.

Difference Between a Cold and the Flu

Differences between a cold and influenza

The common cold and influenza are both respiratory illnesses that can have similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. The similarities can make it hard to tell the difference, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the flu is worse than a cold, with symptoms being more intense. The flu often includes a fever, sore throat, body aches and more, while a cold often less of these symptoms and includes a runny or stuffy nose.

Difference Between Influenza and Stomach Flu

Difference between influenza and gastroenteritis

As stated earlier influenza, known as the flu is a respiratory illness, while gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu” is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Gastroenteritis is often caused by Norovirus, a germ that spreads quickly.

Cold and flu symptoms

What Kind of Care Do You Need?

  • Differences between cold, flu and gastroenteritisInfluenza – If you have influenza, the CDC states that most will recover with rest and time, but people that are very sick or in a high-risk group will need medical attention. There are prescription medications that can help treat influenza in high-risk patients and you can check with your provider for options.
  • Cold – If you have a cold, get rest and appropriate over-the-counter medications for comfort are the recommended treatment. There aren’t prescription medications available to treat a cold.
  • Gastroenteritis – The stomach flu is also an illness that just needs time to process. Prescription medication is not available to treat this ailment. Get rest, stay hydrated and wash your hands.

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

It isn’t too late. They are still available and may help you avoid getting sick.

Overall, if you have a cold or gastroenteritis it is best to get rest and limit your contact with others to minimize the spread of the illness. If you have influenza, being seen by a medical professional can be a good idea. If symptoms continue to worsen, or complications arise always seek out medical attention.

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