Article previously appeared in Orlando Sentinel

Your nose is running. You are coughing and tired. Are you sure it’s just a cold? You could have influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu.” Although common, the flu can be serious and even lead to hospitalization or death. Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu is very important so you can get the right care, prevent worsening symptoms, and help prevent the spread to family, friends and coworkers.

Even if you’ve had the flu vaccination this year, it’s still possible to catch the flu and to pass it on to others.

“Every year we find that patients have a tendency to underestimate the flu and forget what a serious health risk that the flu presents, particularly for the very young and for seniors, but really for anyone when it is left unaddressed,” said Dr. Jason Tibbels, MD, board-certified family physician and director for quality programs at Teladoc, the world’s largest and most trusted provider of virtual care delivery services. “Without proper care, the flu can be life threatening, so it’s vital to seek care as soon as you’re experiencing any symptoms.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the last seven years the flu has been responsible for more than 700,000 hospitalizations and more than 55,000 deaths across the United States. Furthermore, the risk of flu varies state by state, and some regions — including Texas, Florida and California – tend to see more flu cases than others. To find out the flu risk in your state, visit www.Teladoc.com/flu.

If you’re experiencing flu symptoms, don’t wait to seek care. Telehealth is an ideal option, and yet many people don’t realize that they have access to a telehealth solution like Teladoc through their health benefits. With telehealth, you can visit with a doctor from the comfort and safety of your home – or wherever you are, at any time of day or night. Within minutes, using a phone, mobile app or the web, you can access board certified doctors from any location, getting you and your family the care you need, when you need it. This keeps you out of places like the ER, which can be breeding grounds for illness, and in a flu-free zone, and enables children and adults to stay at home when sick.

So how do you know if you have the flu? Flu symptoms are often very similar to those of a cold and include nasal congestion, cough, aches, and fatigue. We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Tibbels for the top five signs you may have the flu. Here’s what he said:

  1. Quick onset. The flu often comes on suddenly, whereas cold symptoms can slowly worsen over the span of a few days and are generally milder.
  2. Fever. A moderate to high fever (at or above 101 degrees Fahrenheit) and chills are associated with the flu, and are not typical symptoms of the common cold.
  3. Aches & headaches. Severe muscle or body aches are a tell-tale flu symptom.
  4. Known exposure. Close contact with individuals known to have influenza can increase the chance of contracting the virus.
  5. Time of year. You can catch a cold at any time of year, but flu season typically runs from November through March. Symptoms that show up outside of flu season are more likely to be from a cold or an allergy.

“If you are feeling sick, going to the ER or visiting urgent care may make you feel worse, while also putting others at risk of catching your illness,” said Dr. Tibbels. “Visiting a Teladoc doctor is the most effective way to get quality care, while also containing symptoms and stopping the spread of flu.”

To learn more about Teladoc and the level of flu risk where you live, visit www.Teladoc.com/flu.

 

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is provided solely for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your health care professional, or 911, immediately.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. While we are continuously reviewing and updating our content, some of the information in this article may not reflect the most up-to-date scientific information. Please visit the online resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news, or reach out to Teladoc to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.