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Cold, Cough & Flu

What is the difference between a cough, a cold, and the flu (influenza)?

A cough is a symptom, not a disease, and is the body's way of removing foreign material or mucus from the lungs and upper airway passages. Coughs can either be acute or chronic. Acute coughs begin suddenly and usually last no more than 2-3 weeks. Acute coughs are the kind you most often get with a cold or flu. Chronic coughs last longer than 2-3 weeks. Causes of chronic coughs include: asthma, allergies, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease), smoking, throat disorders, and some medicines. Coughs are either productive (produces phlegm or mucus) or nonproductive (dry and does not produce mucus).

A cold is the most common disease in the world. It is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory passages including the nose, throat, and sinuses. A cold can also affect the ears and lungs.

Flu is also a contagious viral infection. It affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu outbreaks occur in the late fall and winter with varying degrees of severity. The disease often spreads through communities creating an epidemic.

What are the symptoms of colds, and flu (influenza)?

Cold symptoms start slowly. Most common symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, scratchy or sore throat, coughing and sneezing, loss of voice, mild headache, fatigue, low-grade fever and watering eyes.

Flu symptoms come on more suddenly and include higher fever, muscle aches, chills, sweats, weakness, possible severe sore throat, cough, and chest discomfort.

What is the treatment for colds, coughs, and flu (influenza)?

Since a cough is a symptom, not a disease, often the significance or cause of a cough can only be determined when all other symptoms are evaluated by a healthcare professional.

There is no cure for a cold or flu, but symptoms can be treated. Cold or flu sufferers should get extra rest and drink plenty of fluids. There are many over the counter remedies which can help alleviate symptoms. To relieve nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (1/2 tsp salt to 1 cup warm water). Put 2-3 drops of salt solution into each nostril. To relieve a sore throat, gargle often with warm or cold double-strength tea or salt water. Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture, and clean humidifier daily.

Good and frequent hand washing can help to prevent spread of the germs. Covering your cough is important as well. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age or older get a flu shot to prevent getting the flu.

Visit Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens if your symptoms are more severe or you are at risk for complications.

This treatment is available at Healthcare Clinic locations for patients 18 months and older.

Walk in or schedule an appointment at the Healthcare Clinic nearest you.

Want to prevent getting the flu this season? Arm yourself with a flu shot at Healthcare Clinic or Walgreens pharmacy.

Schedule flu shot appointment.

If you believe you have a medical emergency,  please call 911.

* Patient care services provided by Take Care Health Services, an independently owned professional corporation whose licensed healthcare professionals are not employed by or agents of Walgreen Co. or its subsidiaries, including Take Care Health Systems, LLC.