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Dr. Shane

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Dr. Shane is our Doctor's Orders founder and content creator. You can thank him for the witty humor and awesome health and DPC info every month!

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Common Cold vs. The Flu

It’s that time of year again, some chill in the air, family gatherings and yes, cold and flu season. Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses (not bacteria) and are more common during late fall and winter months when people are meeting together and staying indoors. There are hundreds of viruses that cause colds (that is why we do not have a vaccine for colds—too many viruses) but influenza type A or B are the viruses that cause the flu.


Here are some ways to tell the difference between the FLU and a common cold.

Flu can be prevented a lot of the time by getting a flu shot before the flu season hits, around October if you can. Also, protect yourself by avoiding sick people, washing your hands frequently, covering your cough, eating well and getting plenty of sleep. If you get the flu, sometimes medication can help. You should also be aware that increasing symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or wheezing can be signs of other problems like pneumonia which need to be checked out by your physician.


Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the common cold and prevention tips like above are the best defense. While most colds resolve with some minor symptom treatment if symptoms last longer than 10 days sinus infection can occur. Also, sometimes colds can lead to persistent coughing and lung issues. If these things occur you will want to see your physician.


So, enjoy the upcoming holiday season and get prepared for all those little pesky viruses.

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