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The common cold, pneumonia, and the flu: know the differences and warning signs

The dreaded flu season is kicking into full gear and despite precautions like flu shots and washing hands, many people will come down with influenza in the coming months. So when your head is pounding, you have a fever, your nose is stuffed, and you can’t stop coughing, how do you tell if you have the common cold, the flu or pneumonia when all present common symptoms?

Symptoms of the common cold:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Low or no fever

Symptoms of the common cold take their time. Flu symptoms hit quickly.

Symptoms of the flu:

While cold symptoms are relatively mild, symptoms of the flu are more severe and can knock you out of commission quickly.

  • High fever
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • No appetite
  • Chills and sweats

 Symptoms of pneumonia:

Pneumonia is typically caused by a bacterial infection, whereas the common cold and flu are viral infections.

  • Coughing up mucus
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • High fever with chills
  • Headaches
  • No appetite

The basic differences between a cold, the flu and pneumonia come down to whether you can prevent and treat the disease. A common cold isn’t preventable, but some types of both the flu and pneumonia can be prevented with vaccines and treated with medication.

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