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What Is the Cold/Flu?


Updated June 17, 2014

What Is the Common Cold?:

On average, American adults will suffer from 2 to 4 colds per year and children will get between 6 and 10 colds per year. The common cold is probably the most common illness in the United States today, but it is also the most common reason for doctor's visits, even though there is no cure for the cold.

The cold, like the flu, is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, the only true treatment is to wait until has run it's course. Want to know more?

All about the common cold.

What Is the Flu?:

The flu is similar to the common cold but the symptoms are usually much more severe. Five to 20 percent of the American population come down with the flu each year. It can be very serious and even fatal.

The flu is a virus called influenza. It cannot be treated with antibiotics, but may be prevented with a flu shot and new antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, may help shorten the duration of the flu.

Learn more about the flu.

Do I Have a Cold or the Flu?:

Knowing the difference between the cold and flu can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be. If you know what to look for, you can usually tell if you have a cold or a flu as soon as you notice symptoms.

It is especially important to recognize the symptoms of the flu and notify your doctor within the first 24 hours. If you can take Tamiflu or another antiviral flu medication within 48 hours of the start of symptoms, the flu may be shorter or less severe.

Do you have a cold or the flu?

What Is the Stomach Flu?:

The second most common illness in the United States is gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu." In fact, it is not a type of flu at all, but it is commonly referred to as such. The stomach flu causes stomach symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting.

This nasty bug is another virus that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Certain over-the-counter medications may help relieve some symptoms, but the most important thing to watch for with the stomach flu is dehydration.

Find out more about the stomach flu.



Common Cold, Overview. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health 27 Sep 2006. 17 May 2007.

Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health 16 Nov 2006. 17 May 2007.

Viral Gastroenteritis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH Feb 2006. 17 May 2007.

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