Cold and Flu Signs & Symptoms

Man sick at home with cold and flu symptoms

Signs and symptoms

Although cold and flu symptoms present similarly, there are notable differences. Help your patients understand the signs and symptoms, and when it’s time to seek additional medical intervention.

Symptoms of cold and flu

  • Symptoms of cold and flu

    Cold, flu and COVID-19 symptoms comparison chart

    It may be reassuring to your patients to understand the differences between cold, flu and covid.

    Flu symptoms are like those of the common cold—but may present with a high fever, more severe headaches, more body aches and pains, more severe exhaustion, and a dry cough that progresses to a wet cough with chest discomfort.

    The flu is easily spread as infected individuals are most contagious in the first 3 to 4 days after illness begins and 5 to 7 days AFTER becoming sick.e

    When in doubt, a throat swab can be used to test for the flu virus.

  • Advising patients when to seek medical attention

    Doctor meeting with patient

    By sharing this information with your patients ahead of cold and flu season, they will know when it’s important to seek medical attention.

    Common cold

    Most adults with a common cold will not need to seek medical attention.

    However, patients are advised to seek medical attention if:

    • Symptoms fail to improve within 10 days or get worse
    • Fever exceeding 101.3 °F that lasts more than 3 days
    • Fever ends, then returns
    • There is shortness of breath or wheezing
    • They experience sore throat, headache, or sinus pain

    For children, parents are advised to seek medical attention if they notice any of the following:

    • Fever exceeding 100.4 °F in babies up to 12 weeks of age
    • Fever lasting more than 2 days (any age)
    • Severe headache, throat pain, cough, or ear pain
    • Trouble breathing or wheezing
    • Extremely fussy
    • Unusual fatigue
    • Lack of appetite

    The flu

    Again, most people who contract the flu will recover at home without medical intervention.

    However, patients are advised to seek medical attention if they experience:

    • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Dizziness
    • Seizures
    • Worsening of symptoms
    • Worsening of existing medical conditions
    • Severe muscle pain

    For children, parents are advised to seek medical attention if they notice any of the following:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Blue lips
    • Chest pain
    • Dehydration
    • Severe muscle pain
    • Seizures
    • Worsening of symptoms
    • Worsening of existing medical conditions

    When appropriate, doctors may choose to prescribe antiviral drugs that may reduce the length of illness and help prevent complications.

  • Potential complications

    Cold and flu risk factors icon

    It can be helpful to explain the potential for complications of cold and flu to your patients to encourage them to manage primary symptoms as directed.

    Common cold

    A cold is usually harmless and clears up in a week to 10 days; however, it can sometimes lead to

    secondary infections such as:

    • Acute ear infection
    • Asthma
    • Acute sinusitis
    • Strep throat
    • Pneumonia
    • Croup or bronchiolitis (in children)

    The flu

    Most patients will successfully recover from the flu at home without medical intervention. However, for high-risk patients, antiviral medications can be useful in preventing more serious or life-threatening complications, including:

    • Bacterial pneumonia
    • Ear infections
    • Sinus infections
    • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (like congestive heart failure, asthma, and diabetes)

    Most cases of the common cold and flu are harmless. Pain and fever symptoms can be safely managed at home using over-the-counter solutions like Advil Tablets or Advil Liqui-Gels. Other symptoms may require a cough and cold medicine.

    However, if symptoms worsen or there is an underlying medical condition, it’s recommended that patients seek medical attention as early as possible to limit the risk of further complications.

    Why Advil is an appropriate choice

    Advil is proven to provide significant relief of fever and aches and pains associated with cold and flu, with a favorable safety profile when used as directed.

    Extensively studied and widely used in clinical practice, Advil nonselectively inhibits COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes to block prostaglandin production and pain signaling, effectively treating pain and discomfort caused by inflammation.

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