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Is It A Cold? Or Is It Flu?

When the holiday season rolls around, so does the cold and flu season.

So, how do we know what's ailing us?

On The Early Show Friday, medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips of CBS station WCBS-TV in New York broke down the symptoms to help give you an idea:

Which is more common?

The common cold is just that: much more common! In the United States every year, people get a billion colds. Adults get between two-and-four, and kids get between six-and-ten.

The flu is more rare, but more severe.

How can we tell the difference between them?

Both are viruses, but the symptoms are different.

The common cold usually starts with a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and then a cough; usually, adults don't get much of a fever a cold, but kids can.

The flu can have some of the same symptoms as the common cold, but it's most dramatic. The symptoms are fever, body aches and fatigue.

I often tell my patients, "If you have a cold, you feel sick; if you have the flu, you feel incapacitated." People just feel like they were hit by a truck.

What about treatment?

With a cold, it's all about time -- and chicken soup!

But if you have the flu, there are things you can do.

There's a quickie test you can get at your doctor's office to see if you have the flu. He or she takes a quick swab of the inside of your nose, puts it in a vial with a testing liquid in it and, 20 minutes later, you get the results.

If you catch the flu, within the first 48 hours of symptoms, medications like Tamiflu and Relenza can be used to shorten the length of the symptoms. They're not a cure, but they can make you feel better faster.

Do antibiotics help?

Antibiotics do absolutely nothing for the common cold or flu. However, they may be used for what we call "secondary infections." If you have a cold and aren't starting to get better in five days, you may have developed a sinus infection or bronchitis. With a sinus infection, your nose stays stuffed up, and often there is dark mucous and face pain. Bronchitis can cause a chronic, wet cough. These illnesses can be treated with antibiotics.

When do you need to call your Doctor?

If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent fever, severe headaches or symptoms that last five days.
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