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About colds and seasonal influenza

The common cold
Sooner or later, everyone gets a cold. In fact, the average person gets between one and six each year.

Typical symptoms include fever, sore throat, headaches, nasal congestion, and cough; these can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Colds are caused by one of more than 200 different viruses, transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

Seasonal influenza
Each year, several varieties of viruses that cause influenza circulate throughout the world. They’re spread during close human contact, by the coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Spread happens more frequently in the winter months, when people are indoors.

Symptoms of seasonal flu are similar to those of colds, but more severe. They usually start with a high fever, shaking chills and intense muscle aches, followed by headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough and weakness.

To help prevent colds and flu, wash your hands often, eat nutritiously, rest, avoid crowds and minimize close contact with people who are sick.

Seasonal influenza may also be prevented with immunizations. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations about what vaccines you should receive.

People with any type of flu should drink plenty of fluids, rest, eat healthy foods, wash their hands frequently and stay home to avoid spreading the flu to other people. Prescription antiviral medications may also be used, but need to be started within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

Antibiotics do not treat viruses and are of no benefit for colds. Influenza can be treated with antiviral medication if it’s early in the illness.

If you have flu symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.

Learn more with these helpful treatment tips.

More about colds and flu.

Cold and flu FAQs

Learn more about these common illnesses with these FAQs.

Read the latest...

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has timely information on flu. Visit the website.

Call Your Provider When...

Your temperature is over 103 – 104 F.

Your temperature has been higher than 101 F for more than three days.

You have a temperature of 100.5 F for two weeks or more, but no other symptoms.

Call your provider immediately if any of these signs and symptoms is accompanied by a fever:

  • Severe headache;
  • Significant stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward;
  • Mental confusion;
  • Persistent vomiting;
  • Unusual skin rash;
  • Severe throat swelling;
  • Unusual eye sensitivity to bright light;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Extreme listlessness or irritability;
  • Abdominal pain or pain when urinating; or
  • Any other unexplained symptoms.