Cold vs. Flu symptoms and when to see a doctor

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- If you're waking up with a sore throat or cough, you're not alone. The colder temperatures can lead to a variety of health complications-- and with Christmas just days away, it's important to protect yourself.

While it's easy to want to call the doctor looking for antibiotics at the first sign of a cough, doctors say most illnesses, like the common cold, are viral and taking unnecessary medications could do more harm than good.

So how do you know when to wait it out and continue treating your own symptoms at home and when it's time to see the doctor? Doctor Priscilla Tu, Director of Osteopathic Education, says a high fever and symptoms that get better and then worse are good reasons to visit your doctor.

"Typically the bodies are already fighting a virus, so they're more susceptible to pick up something else," she says." That's why we say if it gets worse or seems to get better than worse again, those are reasons to come in."

If your symptoms last more than 7 to 10 days, it could be a bacterial infection-- which is another good reason to get checked out.

Knowing the difference between the flu or something you can treat at home, like a cold or allergies, is key this time of year.

Many people are allergic to live Christmas Trees and with those allergies, you may see an itchy throat or sneezing. Typically, people who are suffering from allergies don't see fever or body aches.

Meanwhile, symptoms for the cold and flu are similar-- both cause a runny nose and cough. But colds tend to be milder and go away in about a week. The flu is more pronounced, impacting the lungs and joints.

if you feel the winter sicknesses coming on, there are some things you can do at home to make yourself more comfortable. Drink lots of fluids, take mucus-thinning medications as well as Vitami C. You can also keep your sinuses drained by rinsing them with saline solution-- that can get both the mucus and virus germs out of your system.

If your symptoms persist-- it may be a good time to go see your doctor.

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