Achy, fever, coughing and sneezing? You’re likely experiencing upper respiratory infection symptoms, but is it a cold, the flu or COVID-19? When you visit any of our GoHealth Urgent Care centers, we can help you get the correct diagnosis and treatment you need. Just walk in or save your spot online at any of our conveniently located centers — or schedule a Virtual Visit for the same great care from home. We are here for you 365 days a year.
Urgent Care for cold and flu symptoms
What is the flu?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness that infects primarily the upper respiratory system, like the nose and throat, but can sometimes infect the lungs. While it normally causes a mild to moderate illness, in some people it can cause severe illness that can lead to death.
Flu symptoms can include:
- Body or muscle aches
- Fever, for some people
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Cold, flu and COVID-19: symptoms and causes
Are you experiencing cold symptoms? Or are they flu symptoms? What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
The common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses. Colds are generally caused by a number of different viruses, whereas the flu is only caused by the influenza A or influenza B viruses. While many of the symptoms of a cold and the flu may overlap, there are some important distinctions between these common upper respiratory infections.
A cold is generally milder than the flu. Symptoms are frequently concentrated in the head and nose, such as a headache or runny nose. While fever is common in children with colds, it should generally not be present in adults, and its presence should prompt medical evaluation.
The flu may have similar symptoms, but they are usually more severe. With the flu, you may experience a fever, extreme fatigue, sore throat and severe body aches. Complications from the flu can be more severe compared to a cold, and have the potential to result in hospitalization or even death.
COVID-19 also has symptoms similar to colds or influenza, which makes it even more important to see a healthcare provider to assess your symptoms. A COVID-19 test is the safest bet when it comes to cold and flu symptoms, as the level of symptom severity depends on the individual.
Similarities between the flu and COVID-19
The flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses but can have similar symptoms. Similarities include:
- The flu and COVID-19 are contagious illnesses that pass from person to person.
- The flu and COVID-19 both cause similar symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, cough, or stuffy nose.
- Severe symptoms seem to occur most often in people who are immunocompromised, over 65, or are pregnant.
- The flu and COVID-19 can both lead to severe complications and death for some people.
- There are vaccines available for both the flu and COVID-19 that are effective at greatly reducing the risk of getting these illnesses and their complications from them.
Children with cold and flu
Children tend to have respiratory illness more often than adults, especially during cold and flu season. Many of them pick up illnesses at school or daycare, due to the communal setting and close contact between children.
While most recover quickly, as a parent it is important to know the symptoms and treatment for respiratory illnesses in children, so you can help them feel better faster.
Cold and flu symptoms in children
Cold and flu symptoms in children can be similar to those seen in adults. Vomiting and diarrhea tend to be more common in children with respiratory illnesses than in adults.
Sometimes children can become severely ill with the flu and may need additional treatment. You may need to take your child to the emergency department if they have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Lethargy or complete lack of energy.
- Fever of over 102° F for more than 3 days that does not improve with medications.
- Fever over 105° F at any time
- The child does not urinate for over 8 hours or will not drink liquids.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- The skin around the ribs getting sucked in, called retractions when your child inhales
If the symptoms are not severe, but you are still concerned, you can visit any of our convenient GoHealth Urgent Care Centers or schedule a Virtual Visit with one of our providers.
Cold and flu treatment
For most colds and the flu, treatments involve supportive care at home and possibly the use of over-the-counter medications, pain relievers, antihistamines, or decongestants.
There are many things you can do to help your body fight off the virus effectively. These include:
- Staying hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and loosen congestion. Warm liquids can be soothing as well.
- Resting. While you sleep, your body gets to work fighting off the virus. Aim for at least 7-9 hours per night and take naps if possible.
- Using a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air can help loosen congestion.
- Salt water gargles or throat lozenges. Gargling with salt water or using soothing throat drops can help relieve throat pain.
- Trying honey. A teaspoon of honey can help soothe a cough and sore throat.
While everyone is a little different, for most people, nights tend to be worse than days when battling a cold. Colds typically worsen in the first 4 to 5 days from symptom onset. After that peak, symptoms usually start to improve, with symptoms generally resolving by day 7 to 10. Throughout the duration of a cold, it’s important to focus on symptom relief. If you're still experiencing symptoms after 10 days, consider seeking care from a healthcare provider
Cold and flu treatment for children
While it can be difficult when your child is sick, with supportive care at home, most children are able to feel better quickly. Make sure your child rests and stays hydrated if they are ill.
At-home treatments, like using a humidifier, gargling with salt water, or taking a teaspoon of honey for children over 1 year old to soothe a cough or sore throat can help as well.
Avoid using adult over-the-counter cold and flu medications or cough medications for children before speaking with your doctor. Children’s Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (brand name Motrin or Advil) can be used for fever and pain relief if needed, and as they are different classes of medication, they can both be used together in a staggered fashion. Just make sure your child does not receive a dose of either of these medications any more frequently than recommended on the bottle. Ibuprofen (Children’s Motrin) should never be used in children younger than 6 months of age.
Cold and flu medicine to have on hand
While there is no single best cold and flu medicine for adults, most over-the-counter medications offer temporary relief or reduction of symptoms but do not make you get better faster. A few medications you may want to have on hand during cold and flu season may include:
Cetirizine, Diphenhydramine, Fexofenadine, Loratadine
Pain relievers/fever reducers:
Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen.
Other conditions related to cold and flu
At GoHealth Urgent Care, we can help diagnose and treat upper respiratory infections, so you can feel better faster. We offer treatment for more than just colds and the flu — we can also help with:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Food allergies
- Seasonal allergies
- Strep throat
If you are unsure about your symptoms, are at high risk or your symptoms are getting worse, we can help at GoHealth Urgent Care. Just stop by any of our convenient centers or schedule a walk-in at an office or a Virtual Visit.
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
Do’s and Don’ts of Having A Cold
The common cold can be caused by several viruses, but the symptoms are the same: sore throat, runny nose, malaise, cough, a low-grade fever, and body aches. If you’re an adult, you’re likely to get between two and four colds a year. Your kids are likely to get colds more frequently. In fact, kids under two years old typically get eight to ten colds a year!
Five Fast Facts About Fevers
The human body is designed to function best within a certain temperature range. The average “normal” body temperature is 98.6 degrees F.
What’s The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu?
Each year in the U.S., millions of people contract infections during our cold and flu season (which typically runs from November to March). While there are some similarities between colds and the flu, there are also some important distinctions. Here are the key differences between these two infections.
Home Remedies for Cold & Flu Symptoms
Each year, millions of children and adults in the U.S. fall ill during cold and flu season. While it’s important to seek medical attention for severe or protracted symptoms, there are also several simple things you can do at home to alleviate symptoms, prevent the illness from worsening, and even help the infection resolve faster.
The difference between viral sore throat vs. strep throat
While you’re suffering through the pain of a sore throat, it may seem trivial to consider the source of your discomfort. After all, you’re concentrating on getting sips of water down, not the root cause of this illness.
Five Common Flu Shot Myths
The flu shot is inexpensive, readily available, and indicated for people ages 6 months and up. However, each year more than half of the U.S. population does not get a flu shot, often because they believe widespread myths about the flu shot.