Cold or Flu: How to Tell the Difference?

By Crabby McSlacker

So as I was saying yesterday, I seem to have caught some sort of bug. And I'm being a big ol' baby about it.

As someone who frequently claims that I "never" get sick, this was a blow to my cherished illusion of invincibility. I like to believe that a lifetime of exercise, plus consumption of all those damn vegetables, has made me superhuman, someone impervious to disease.  But apparently I am pervious after all.

On the other hand, once I realized that I did indeed did have something, and actually a nasty something that makes me feel like I've been run over by a freight train, one about 7000 cars long, I actually found I wanted it to be the flu and not a mere cold.

Is anyone else this weird?

It's like, if I'm gonna feel crappy, I want credit for it.

Wait, credit? Credit for what? Credit from whom?

Is the Universe actually tallying suffering and keeping books and making sure everything evens up at some point? Because if so, I am totally screwed.  I have suffered far less in my life than any spoiled whiner in the history of spoiled whining. So I don't think it's about that.

It's more like when I was a little girl and hurt my wrist, I was totally rooting for it to be broken rather than just sprained so I could come home with a cast for show and tell.  (It wasn't broken. I was so disappointed!)

Except that now I am 53 years old. And no one actually gives a crap if what I have is technically a cold or the flu.

How clueless is it to hope I have the flu rather than a cold? If I only have a cold, it means I'm going to feel better way faster than if I have the flu.

Actually, what I really want is to find out it's the flu, but then I want to be completely over it in a day or two because I'm such a bad-ass that my immune system can kick influenza butt.

Yes, I am this immature.  Welcome to Cranky Fitness.

Bring me things, nice nurse! I have the flu!
photo: wikipedia

Cold versus Flu Symptoms

Anyway, my desire to justify my bitter complaints about feeling under the weather led me to do a little online research on cold vs flu symptoms. And this being a health blog and all, I thought I'd share. But as usual, when it comes to anything health related, it got confusing and contradictory.

According to Web MD, here's  how the Cold vs Flu thing breaks down:

Fever: While some colds may involve fever, fevers are more likely with flu, and they're higher and tend to come on suddenly.

Headaches: more common with flu, less with colds

Muscle or body aches: more common and severe with flu

Fatigue: sometimes with colds, usually with flu

Downright Holy-Crap Exhaustion: more of a flu thing

Stuffy or runny nose and sneezing: Can happen with both cold and flu but more common with colds.

Sore throat: Also more of a cold thing.

In addition, the University of Maryland Medical Center mentions that flu symptoms include dry cough, loss of appetite, chills and sweats, and, particularly in kids, can include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

But then I came across a cool looking site called "Decoded Science" that looked pretty sensible. And while they had similar guidelines as to cold vs flu symptoms, they also had this to say:

So What Does Crabby Have?

I don't currently have a physician in San Diego, so this of course all half-assed self diagnosis.  My preliminary call was: flu.

I've never had a cold without a stuffed nose, but that is curiously absent with this illness. Also no sneezing. I started with some digestive upset that I will not get graphic about, and I've got a headache, cough that will not go the fuck away, and it feels like my lungs are filled with lead, until I cough, and then the lead turns into glass shards. I have periodic chills and rushes of heat (though being menopausal, the heat part is not exactly foreign). I am wiped out after walking a few blocks in the neighborhood, and I just generally feel foggy and feeble and even a bit depressed. This escalates to full on zombiehood by evening.

When I've had a cold, I've always felt pretty functional. Back in the days when I worked in an office, I was one of those jerks who'd go in anyway,  spread my germs all around, and save my sick days for when I felt well enough to enjoy them.

But I wanted corroboration! And fever seemed to be a prominent differential.  So when I went and purchased a thermometer to check out the fever thing yesterday afternoon?

I kept sucking and sucking... but 99 was as high as I could get it.

WTF?  You stupid cheap-ass walgreens thermometer, you must be lying!  So all this misery is just a cold? I was, I confess, feeling ripped off.

(Although I did discover that you can have a flu without having a fever.)

But then in the middle of the night I woke up feeling even worse than yesterday, took my temperature, and voila:

101 degrees!


Anyway, I've prescribed myself rest, ibuprofen, cough syrup, zinc lozenges, and plenty of liquids, including some leftover chicken vegetable soup with a ton of garlic I had in the freezer.

It tastes way better than it looks.

And guess what?  It turns out that dark chocolate fights colds and flu! And that dark chocolate may be a cough suppressant!

Best. News. Ever.

How about you guys, thoughts on illness or anything else?   

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