How to tell the difference between a cold and the flu

Medical advice worth every penny you paid for it...

As some of you may have already noticed I have not been up to my usual hijinks since returning from Hollywood, California.

That’s because four days after flying Spirit Airlines I got hit with a cold or flu (more on that in a moment) and haven’t been very productive unless you count coughing up a third of my body weight in phlegm.

According to the Center for Disease Control it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, which tells me those CDC guys need to get out more because I haven’t talked to a person yet who doesn’t have a medical opinion that they’re willing to share whether I want to hear it or not.

Everybody’s an expert.

And I can’t help but notice an inverse relationship between a lack of medical training and a willingness to dispense advice.

Real doctors are cautious when venturing opinions, the rest of us have nothing to lose so we’re more than willing to diagnose a possible brain tumor when a friend drinks a frozen margarita too quickly.

Which reminds me of a story.

My best friend from high school has a medical degree and once upon a time we were getting hammered in a bar when some woman further along in the process fell off her bar stool and did a Greg Louganis onto a concrete floor.

Here are the first words my friend said:

I can’t help her…I’m a doctor.”

In other words, the rest of us idiots could try any medical treatment we liked; he couldn’t help her because if something went wrong he could be sued.

Turned out all the woman needed was some help up and another cocktail, but it made me realize if me and my buddy went camping and I got mauled by a bear I’d have to limp back to civilization and find somebody who didn’t know what they were doing to receive medical treatment.

So where were we?

Right…the difference between the cold and the flu

So after listening to everybody’s opinion I went on the internet and asked “what’s the difference between a cold and the flu” and found an article that claimed to have 12 ways to tell if you just feel like crap or should be calling a funeral home and making arrangements.

My internet question led me a website with 12 items and here they are:

1. Feeling out a cold

This was the actual title of item one which told me nothing except there are about 200 cold viruses, so at my age I feel like I ought to be done with this crap…I feel like I’ve had 200 colds since moving to the Midwest and finding out about “wind chill” which doesn’t come up that often in conversation when you grow up in California although the word “earthquake” does so I guess we’re even.  

2. What’s a flu then?

This said a flu often includes vomiting and ear pain which I haven’t had since listening to Lana Del Rey moan her way through toe tappers like “Summertime Sadness” and “Born to Die.” (Actually I don’t much about Lana except when I saw her on Saturday Night Live she seemed like she’d be a hoot on a camping trip…maybe she’d write some dreary ballad about my getting mauled by that bear and dying from a lack of medical attention.)

3. Pneumonia is no minor matter

After item 3 I now had to start worrying about pneumonia, which hadn’t previously entered my mind, but I now have to find an internet article about health-related stress. Also, I’m beginning to wonder where they find these failed fashion models to act out various illnesses and how soon the Academy Awards will add that category to the Oscars.

4. A virus can be the culprit for all three

This was accompanied by a picture of what I assume to be bacteria but looks like the Death Star if it had a bad case of acne. The fact that I have this roaming around inside my body makes me hope Luke Skywalker shows up soon and drops a load of penicillin down a ventilation shaft.

5. By the symptoms: a cold

What followed this headline was a list of the usual cold symptoms – runny nose, cough, etc. – but didn’t tell me if I had the flu which is what I wanted to know in the first place.

6. By the symptoms: a flu

Now we’re getting somewhere: throw in all the cold symptoms and add fatigue (which I’ve had since I turned 60) vomiting and diarrhea. I can cross the last two off my list unless I have a big bowl of that Vietnamese soup called pho, which I love, but clears me out like those old commercials showing Draino do its stuff on a hair clog.

The Vietnamese people have had their problems, but I’m guessing constipation ain’t on the list.

7. By the symptoms: pneumonia

The article said that pneumonia in patients older than 65 is often accompanied by confusion and lowered mental awareness and I haven’t had those symptoms since jumping in a swimming pool with my old cell phone and having to program a new one.

My current model still sends me some kind of alerts at 3:45 AM and I don’t know how to turn that off so I either need to visit an emergency room or spend some time with a teenager who can fix this shit for me.

8. They move at different paces

At first I thought they were still talking about people over 65 and their tendency to drive as if they’re only vaguely aware of their destination which leads to meandering between lanes, slowing down and then speeding up for no discernable reason.

Turns out they were referring to the various illnesses I might have; feeling fine one day and waking up the next day and feeling like crap which once again is a symptom I’ve been experiencing since the turn of the century.

9. Lifespans of colds, flu and pneumonia

The good news here is I clearly don’t have “walking” pneumonia because I got ready to take my daily stroll, looked at my phone which informed me it was 12 degrees outside but felt like -2 and I said to hell with it, went back inside and watched Netflix until it was time for the Chiefs game.

If there’s a “walking” version, is there such a thing as “lying on the couch” pneumonia?

10. Vaccines help prevent two of these

There are vaccines for the flu and pneumonia, but no cure for the common cold because when you have one everybody tells you to stay home from work and that includes the lab where you might find a cure. And if you don’t have a cold you don’t give a crap about your coughing, sneezing co-worker as long as he or she doesn’t struggle into work to finish those quarterly projections and make sure everybody else gets infected.

11. Don’t give colds the cold shoulder

At this point the article advise me to go see a doctor because they need to make a living too, even if it’s just having your ears cleaned out which I’ve never done, but my son Michael advise me to try because when he had his done he swears they found some loose change, a rubber band and some old ticket stubs.

12. When to bring in medical help

My first thought was when your doctor needs to make a payment on that new boat he bought, but let’s face it: who needs qualified, highly-expensive medical help when you have so many friends eager to practice medicine without a license?

Either way you’re going to feel like crap for two weeks and mine are almost up.

Talk to you soon.