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Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Flu season is widespread in Maryland this year, although across the nation it's been less severe than in years past. (Veronica Carter)
Flu season is widespread in Maryland this year, although across the nation it's been less severe than in years past. (Veronica Carter)
March 7, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Flu season is still under way, and although it's been a pretty mild year for it in some parts of the country so far, there still are a few weeks to go before we're out of the woods.

Being able to distinguish the difference between the flu and a cold can be crucial for certain parts of the population.

Dr. Puneet Chopra, director of Emergency Services at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham Seabrook, says the elderly, very young children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at risk if flu symptoms are left untreated.

"That specific population should definitely get checked more than everybody in the middle because they're more prone to developing pneumonia or bacterial infections,” he stresses. “Flu can lead to death."

The latest numbers from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention show flu is widespread in Maryland, but the flu vaccine this year is about 60 percent effective, which is higher than the last couple of years.

Telling the difference between a cold and the flu can be tough sometimes.

Chopra says if you are sneezing, have a sore throat and stuffy or runny nose, it's a cold. There can be mild body aches and fatigue that come with it, but if there's a fever and you feel like you just can't get out of bed, it's likely the flu.

Chopra says different people have different pain thresholds and may not be able to tell the difference easily.

"You're never wrong to go get checked out by your doctor or by the emergency room if you're not feeling well or concerned,” he advises. “Fair reason to go. Education and understanding the difference is important because obviously we want to use these resources wisely."

The average flu season lasts 13 weeks, but can stretch for 20.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD