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Cold v. Flu: Which One Do You Have?

Ready or not, fall has arrived! Even though the Texas heat won’t be going away for several more weeks, cold and flu season is here. Both the common cold virus and the flu become more common in late fall and peak in the winter months. If you are experiencing illness, you may be unsure about the cause or appropriate treatment.

Know the Cause

The flu, short for influenza virus, is a viral infection that attacks the lungs and airways. A common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract causing inflammation in the nose, throat, and eyes. While more than 100 different viruses can cause a cold, influenza may be caused by flu virus types A and B.

Know your Symptoms

The first step in determining whether you have a cold or the flu is to assess your symptoms. A common cold’s symptoms often include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and headache. Cold symptoms are most often mild, progress more gradually, and can last 7-10 days.

Flu symptoms, on the other hand, come on rapidly and be more acute.

Typical flu symptoms include:

fever (may last several days)


body aches and weakness


While colds and influenza might have overlapping symptoms, looking at additional symptoms can help distinguish what type of illness you may be experiencing.

If you still aren’t sure, schedule an appointment at a Lone Star Circle of Care Clinic near you. A flu test can be run and return results within minutes, and our medical professionals can help provide the most appropriate treatment for your illness.

Know How to Protect Yourself

Both cold and flu viruses are airborne and can be highly contagious. They can be spread when someone who is infected sneezes or coughs. You can also become infected when touching a surface that has recently been in contact with secretions from someone who is infected. Viruses can live on surfaces for 48 hours or more.

Some of the easiest ways to avoid sickness this fall and winter are to wash your hands regularly, minimize hand contact with your eyes and mouth, and keep counters and other household surfaces and objects sanitized.

For the flu specifically, it is recommended that everyone six months and older get an annual flu shot. Getting a flu shot not only protects you and your family, it also protects your community–especially more vulnerable members who are at greater risk of developing flu complications such as children under age 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic illness or weakened immunity. Flu shots are now available at Lone Star Circle of Care Clinics. Call 877-800-5722 to schedule a flu shot appointment today.