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Internal Medicine Doctors of
Mill Basin & Bergen Beach, Brooklyn

6301 Mill Lane (Corner of East 63rd) in Mill Basin (11234)


Dr. Bella Zimilevich

Dr. Bella Zimilevich, MD
Primary Care Doctor

Dr. Bella Zimilevich

Dr. Anatoly Pisman, M.D
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Dr. Bella Zimilevich

Dr. Alexander Shapsis, M.D

How do I know if I have a cold or the flu?

Posted by on October 10th, 2013

Answer: People get confused between the common cold or the flu all the time. The flu and a cold share common symptoms but are not the same. The flu generally makes you far sicker for a longer period of time than the common cold does.

  • Onset– the flu hits quickly. You may wake up in the morning feeling well and by afternoon you may be so sick that you have no choice but to go to bed. A cold comes on slowly. It may start with a tickle in your throat and a runny nose and progress over a couple of days until symptoms are full-fledged.

  • Fever– with a cold, you may experience a low-grade temperature. With influenza, you may get chills and a very high temperature.

  • Muscle aches– with a cold you may feel unwell and you may feel a little achy. When you get the flu, you may experience intense muscle aches all over your body.

  • Ability to work – most people who have a cold are able to continue working (this is not to say that they should, only that most can). With influenza, the affected person may be so weak and ill that they will find it impossible to work (and they should definitely not go to work and spread the virus to others!)

  • Coughing – both influenza and the common cold are respiratory illnesses. A cold will often lead to a cough that may be productive. The cough associated with influenza is dry and non-productive.

  • Sore throatsore throat may be one of primary symptoms with a cold and may be very uncomfortable. You may also experience a sore throat with influenza but it will not be the primary symptom.

  • Nausea and vomiting – nausea and vomiting is not a common symptom with either illness, but some people with influenza may experience nausea and vomiting and possibly even diarrhea, depending on the flu strain. For example, the H1N1 strain of influenza that hit so hard in 2009 caused gastrointestinal symptoms in a larger proportion of sufferers than is typically seen with the flu.

  • Nasal congestion – this is very common with a cold. It is far less common with the flu.

  • Headache  – headache is very common with influenza. It may occur in the common cold but is less common and is usually not severe.

  • Complications – complications may occur with either illness. Otitis media (middle ear infection), bronchitis and sinus infections may occur as a consequence of the common cold. With influenza, pneumonia is not uncommon and may be deadly for the elderly and those with compromised immune symptoms. People with underlying lung disease may experience a complication of either illness more often than people who have a health respiratory system and the ability to fight off infection.

Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to stay well this winter. You cannot wash your hands too often! To avoid the flu, I strongly recommend that you get a flu shot, particularly if you are obese, you are a smoker or you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease. If you are taking medications (such as steroids) that can weaken your ability to fight off infection or if you are being treated for a chronic health condition, getting a flu shot may be life-saving.

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6301 Mill Lane, Brooklyn, NY 11234.

(718) 942-4600


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