Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - adultWhat to ask your doctor about colds and the flu - adult; Influenza - what to ask your doctor - adult; Upper respiratory infection - what to ask your doctor - adult; URI - what to ask your doctor - adult; H1N1 (Swine) flu - what to ask your doctor - adult
Many different germs, called viruses, cause colds. Symptoms of the common cold include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by the influenza virus.
Many flu symptoms are similar to those of a common cold. Flu symptoms most often include fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Symptoms can also include vomiting and diarrhea. Many of these symptoms are the same as for COVID-19.
Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your cold or flu.
What are the symptoms of a cold? What are the symptoms of the flu? How can I tell them apart?
- Will I have a fever? How high? How long will it last? Can a high fever be dangerous?
- Will I have a cough? Sore throat? Runny nose? Headache? Other symptoms? How long will these symptoms last? Will I be tired or achy?
- How will I know if I have an ear infection?
- How will I know if I have pneumonia?
- When should I get tested for COVID-19?
Can I make other people sick? How can I prevent that? What should I do if I have a young child at home? How about somebody who is older?
When will I start to feel better?
What should I eat or drink? How much?
What medicines can I buy to help with my symptoms?
- Can I take aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)? How about acetaminophen (Tylenol)? How about cold medicines?
- Can my provider prescribe stronger medicines to help improve my symptoms?
- Can I take vitamins or herbs to make my cold or flu go away quicker? How do I know if they are safe?
Will antibiotics make my symptoms go away faster?
Are there other medicines that can make the flu go away faster?
How can I keep from getting a cold or the flu?
- Should I get a flu shot? What time of year should I get one? Do I need one or two flu shots every year? What are the risks of the flu shot? What are the risks for me if I do not get a flu shot? Does the regular flu shot protect against swine flu?
- Is a flu shot safe for me if I am pregnant?
- Will a flu shot keep me from getting colds all year long?
- Can smoking or being around smokers cause me to get the flu more easily?
- Can I take vitamins or herbs to prevent the flu?
Barrett B, Turner RB. The common cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 337.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm. Updated November 18, 2021. Accessed March 31, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Flu: what to do if you get sick. www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/takingcare.htm. Updated August 31, 2021. Accessed March 31, 2022.
Ison MG, Hayden FG. Influenza. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 340.