Do you have a cold or the flu? There is a difference

RENO, Nev (KOLO) A common sight this time of year: tissues, runny nose, and cough. If you come down with these symptoms, how do you know what you have, a cold or the flu?

Doctors say if the symptoms come on fast and strong, it's the flu.

“Often a fever. If somebody tells you their hair hurts, they feel so terrible that they can't get out of bed, they can't move they can barely do anything, and their hair hurts, then you know it is the flu,” say Dr. Eithne Barton, a family physician with Community Health Alliance.

Dr. Barton recommends the flu shot each year in October to her patients. It’s not too late to get that shot. But it will take three weeks to be effective should you come in contact with the targeted flu viruses.

Anti-viral medications like Tamiflu can be taken at the very onset of the flu. But it is prescription only and will simply lessen the symptoms of the flu.

She says over-the-counter medication including fever reducers should be used to manage symptoms.

The flu has a greater impact on patients who are very young or very old. If patients get dehydrated, or take a turn for the worse, it is time to take them to a hospital.

The ramifications of a cold are not so dire.

“So typically a cold. Most of us have had a cold throughout the winter or the colder seasons; usually it is something you can get through your day with,” says Dr. Barton.

There is no vaccine for the cold. Over-the-counter medications can be used to make you feel better over the course of about ten days. That is typically how long symptoms last.

She says don't expect an antibiotic----unless a secondary sinus infection crops up following your cold. Antibiotics are used to combat bacterial infections.

Cold and flu are caused by viruses.