Cold versus flu: do you know how to tell the difference?

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DENISON, TEXAS -- According to the CDC, it's peak time for the flu virus and the majority of Americans haven't received a flu shot. Many who are sick or are nursing a sick loved one are finding it hard to identify between the flu and the common cold.

Allison Harris spoke with a local doctor today to find out the difference.

"It hits like a ton of bricks. You're feeling fine one minute and then, all of a sudden, you can barely move, you're body's aching. The cold -- it's not like that," Dr. Duke Carlson at Texoma Medical Plaza said.

Carlson says the cold and flu are both viruses, but they attack your system in very different ways.

"The cold virus kind of sneaks up on you. You maybe have a little sore throat; usually that's how it starts: sore throat, a little bit of cough, but not this abrupt change in your health that occurs with the flu," Carlson said.

The viruses also differ in how they can evolve into other illnesses.

"With the flu you can get things like pneumonia, whereas the cold virus, sometimes you might get a sinus infection or an ear infection, maybe a strep throat," Carlson said.

WebMD says flu symptoms include sore throat, headache, muscle aches, soreness, congestion, coughs and fever.

With the cold, you might have a low grade fever, but the thermometer shouldn't read above 101. The flu will get into your whole body and likely give you a high fever.

"And then headache. People with colds will have some sinus congestion, but with the flu, it's a headache," Carlson said.

Stocking up on vitamins might help you ward off the cold and flu, but it's more important to wash your hands and not touch your eyes or mouth.

"Don't forget about stress: reducing stress in your life, getting plenty of sleep, good nutrition, exercise. These are the things that are going to really boost your immunity and help you not be vulnerable to disease," Carlson said.

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