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The cold vs. the flu

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Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2010 11:00 am

Q: How can I tell whether I have a cold or the flu, and should I be vaccinated against the seasonal flu and H1N1?

A: Both a cold and the flu are viruses that can cause sneezing, coughing, congestion and make you feel down right miserable. However, a cold is much milder than the flu. People who get the flu experience more severe symptoms, which in some cases may lead to pneumonia or even hospitalization.

Symptoms of a cold can include cough, aches, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. The symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a cold with the addition of high fever, headache and diffuse muscle pain. These may also be symptoms of H1N1, also known as the swine flu.

The best thing you can do if you have a cold or the flu is stay home. Both colds and the flu are highly contagious. You should stay in bed, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid. Call your doctor if you are at risk for complications of the flu, such as someone with asthma.

When it comes to prevention, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and keep your distance from those who are sick. However, vaccination is the best way to protect both you and your family against the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine will protect against an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 virus, which caused substantial illness, hospitalizations and deaths last year. The CDC recommends all people ages six months and older get a flu vaccine this year. To learn more, log on to

Rick Swearingen, D.O., is medical director at Catholic Healthcare West's (CHW) Urgent Care in Ahwatukee Foothills, 4545 E. Chandler Blvd. For more information, call (480) 728-4000.

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