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Dr. Debra Kay, DO

When we’re not feeling well, it can be difficult to know if it’s a cold or something more serious. Symptoms of a cold or the stomach flu are often confused with influenza. Dr. Deborah Kay, a family practice physician, said there are a few key symptoms to be aware of to know the difference. “Cold symptoms usually start with a runny or stuffy nose, followed by a headache,” Dr. Kay said. “Influenza, on the other hand, starts off more severely.” Influenza symptoms include body aches, a fever, chills and a sore throat, and then progress to a bad cough.

According to the CDC, influenza symptoms are sudden and more intense, and if it’s not treated quickly, pneumonia or bacterial infections can develop. “Influenza typically lasts about five to seven days,” Dr. Kay said, “but if you see your primary care doctor within the first 48 hours… you may be prescribed medication which can help you feel better faster.”

Influenza is also commonly mistaken for gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. “The stomach flu is much more common but is less severe than influenza,” Dr. Kay said, “and more symptoms associated with influenza aren’t seen in the everyday stomach flu.”

“The stomach flu is accompanied by nausea and vomiting for about two to three days,” Dr. Kay said, “and then resolve with little or no treatment.” These symptoms are uncommon in both the common cold and influenza. Timing, season, and severity of symptoms can also help determine what illness you have.

Because these illnesses share many of the same symptoms, it can be difficult to know what you have. Visit your primary care doctor at the onset of symptoms to determine what you have and receive proper treatment- check this comparison chart to help with a quicker diagnosis.

Dr. Debra Kay is board-certified in family medicine with an office in Dearborn Heights.

Call 877-717-9355 for a referral to a GCH physician.