How to tell the difference between a cold and the flu

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Unfortunately, the flu isn't the only virus going around right now.

We're also seeing the stomach virus and a lot of different upper respiratory infections, and colds.

Nasty colds are never fun, but the flu can be much more serious. So how do you tell the difference? There's one sure thing to look for with the flu.

"It hits you like a ton of bricks. Comes on so fast. It can come on in a few hours," said Ellen Kunes, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

And you'll likely have these added symptoms - feeling feverish or having a fever, chills, muscle aches and extreme tiredness.

A cold has similar but milder symptoms - runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fatigue. But it's bearable and you can still get things done.

"With the flu you really can't. You want to go to bed. You just feel like you can't move," said Kunes.

If you suspect you have the flu, Consumer Reports says you may want to call your doctor and see if you're a candidate for an anti-viral medicine like Tamiflu or the new Xofluza.

Both work best if taken within 24 to 48 hours of getting symptoms. They may shorten the duration of the flu by 1 to 2 days.

Xofluza only requires 1 dose. Tamiflu requires you take it twice a day for 5 days.

And if you do have the flu?

"Do everyone a favor and call in sick," said Kunes.

It's recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is completely gone.

If someone in your family has the flu, try to keep them in just one room and away from other people. Also, disinfect all common areas.

As for the anti-viral medication, both are expensive. With a coupon, Tamiflu will cost you about $50 dollars. Xofluza is about $30 dollars, but that's based on what your insurance company will cover.

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