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Cold vs. flu symptoms: Here’s what the CDC says to watch for as the virus strikes early in 2019

Cold vs. flu symptoms: Here’s what the CDC says to watch for as the virus strikes early in 2019
[Photo: Pixabay/Pexels]

You had a terrible night’s sleep. You woke up with a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. Is it a cold? The flu? Or is it just Monday?

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It’s not always easy to distinguish between a common cold and the more serious influenza virus, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are feeling under the weather can watch out for some telltale signs.

First and foremost are the onset of the symptoms themselves. The CDC says flu symptoms tend to come on abruptly, while people with a common cold may feel symptoms gradually. Flu symptoms also tend to be more severe overall. Meanwhile, fevers and headaches are rare with a cold but more common with the flu.

The CDC created a handy infographic that lists nine symptoms and how they stack up:

[Image: courtesy of CDC]
All of this information is especially critical right now as the 2019/2020 flu season appears to be arriving early in many parts of the country. The CDC said Friday that activity in the United States has now been elevated for four weeks. Much of that is being driven by one particular strain of the influential virus called B/Victoria, which the CDC says is “unusual for this time of year.” H1N1 and H3N2 are the next most common strains.

As for which parts of the country are getting hit the hardest, that’s been a consistent picture over the past few weeks. The Deep South states and Puerto Rico are experiencing high levels of people exhibiting influenza-like-illness (what the CDC calls “ILI), as are Washington State, Nebraska, and Nevada. You can check out the CDC’s weekly map here.

[Image: courtesy of CDC]
Finally, the CDC is reminding people that the flu season is “just getting started,” and there’s still time to get a flu shot. You can learn more about how to prevent the flu on the agency’s prevention page.

If you’ve managed to get this far without feeling any of those symptoms above, congratulations: You’ve just been diagnosed with the Monday blues.

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