Common cold and flu diagnosis

Common Cold Diagnosis

Nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, and coughing are all classic signs of a cold. In most cases, common colds go away on their own, and it isn’t necessary to make an appointment with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician for an evaluation and diagnosis.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend making an appointment with your doctor if cold symptoms linger or worsen beyond 10 days, if you or your child have a fever over 100.4 F, or if over-the-counter medicines are not helping with symptoms.

Sometimes, the common cold may develop into more serious complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Ear infections are a common complication in children.

Complications are more common in infants and children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms and a physical examination are all the doctor needs to diagnose the common cold. An initial diagnosis often is made from symptoms alone.

Usually, no blood tests or X-rays are necessary.
During the physical examination, the doctor will pay careful attention to the head, neck, and chest.
The doctor will examine the eyes, ears, throat, and chest to help determine if a bacterial source is causing the illness.


To properly diagnose a cold that is severe or persistent, your physician may start with a history and physical exam. He or she will ask questions about your symptoms, including their specific character and how long they have lasted. In the exam, your doctor will likely check your lungs, sinuses, throat, and ears.

cold and flu diagnosis 01Your doctor may also take a throat culture, which involves swabbing the back of the throat. This test mainly helps your doctor to determine whether or not a bacterial infection is causing your sore throat. They may also order a blood test or chest X-rays in order to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms or to find out whether your cold has developed into a more serious complication like bronchitis or pneumonia.

In certain cases, such as with a severe ear infection, your doctor may refer you or your child to a specialist such as an otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a physician specially trained in treating the ears, nose, and throat (ENT).

Though there are some laboratory tests that can detect common viral agents like rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus. They are rarely used since the common cold tends to abate before a diagnostic test is necessary. However, sometimes a doctor may order a viral test in the case of cold symptoms, especially in children under two, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. These tests commonly involve taking a sample of nasal fluid using a suction instrument or sometimes a swab.

Diagnosis Flu

Your respiratory illness might be the flu if you have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Flu viruses usually cause the most illness during the colder months of the year. However, influenza can also occur outside of the typical flu season. In addition, other viruses can also cause respiratory illness similar to the flu. So, it is impossible to tell for sure if you have the flu based on symptoms alone. If your doctor needs to know for sure whether you have the flu, there are laboratory tests that can be done.

cold and flu diagnosis 02A number of flu tests are available to detect influenza viruses. The most common are called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests.” These tests can provide results in 30 minutes or less. Unfortunately, the ability of these tests to detect the flu can vary greatly. Therefore, you could still have the flu, even though your rapid test result is negative. In addition to rapid tests, there are several more accurate and sensitive flu tests available that must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as those found in hospitals or state public health laboratories. All of these tests require that a health care provider swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab and then send the swab for testing. These tests do not require a blood sample.

During an influenza outbreak, a positive rapid flu test is likely to indicate influenza infection.

However, rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of rapid test used, and on the type of flu viruses circulating.

Also, rapid tests appear to be better at detecting flu in children than adults. This variation in ability to detect viruses can result in some people who are infected with the flu having a negative rapid test result. (This situation is called a false negative test result.) Despite a negative rapid test result, your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment.

Most people with flu symptoms do not require testing because the test results usually do not change how you are treated.


Your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment or they may choose to use an influenza diagnostic test. During an outbreak of respiratory illness. Testing for flu can help determine if flu viruses are the cause of the outbreak. Flu testing can also be helpful for some people with suspected flu who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system. And for whom a diagnosis flu can help their doctor make decisions about their care.

You may think of the flu as pretty harmless.

Most of the time, it is. People typically recover after about a week or two without any lasting problems. But sometimes this illness can lead to serious complications that require emergency care.

Every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. wind up in the hospital because of the flu. Tens of thousands die. Infants, the elderly, and people with certain diseases or weakened immune systems are the most at risk. But a flu emergency can happen to anyone. So it’s important to know the signs of trouble.

Different strains of the influenza virus cause the flu. You get it when you inhale the germ or pick it up on your hands and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Symptoms usually show up 1 to 4 days later.

The flu can be hard to tell from a cold. But it usually comes on faster and is more severe. The so-called “stomach flu” isn’t the same as influenza. The flu very rarely causes tummy trouble in adults.