Differentiating Between Cold and Flu


Your nose looks stuffy, your head seem to be pounding and your throat goes itchy. Could it be cold or a normal flu? There is a possibility of overlapping symptoms, so not until your doctor carries out a flu test, using your cotton swab to do a swift check from your throat or nose’ rear is not adequate enough.

Here are some guidelines for knowing how you can differentiate between flu symptoms and cold symptoms, as well as what you should do when you have any of them.


How to know the difference

All viruses cause cold as well as flu. They are both respiratory infections. The easiest way to know the difference by examining your symptoms.

Should you experience a cold, then you would likely have symptoms such as:

  • stuffy or runny nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • body aches or headache
  • mild tiredness

The flu symptoms are:

  • dry cough
  • moderate or high fever, however not everyone who has the flu experiences this
  • shaking chills
  • sore throat
  • severe body or muscle aches
  • headache
  • runny and stuffy nose
  • severe fatigue which may stay for like two weeks
  • vomiting and nausea, as well as diarrhea (mostly common with children)
  • Colds appear gradually within some days and aren’t as serious as the flu. They normally become better within seven to ten days, even though symptoms last almost 2 weeks.
  • Symptoms for flu occur quickly and are more severe. They normally stay between 1 – 2 weeks.
  • Use the symptoms for knowing what you are experiencing. If you suspect you may be having the flu, make an appointment with your doctor so as to be tested before 48hrs of noticing the symptoms elapses.

What’s common cold?

Common cold fits the description of a respiratory infection that is brought about by a certain virus. According to American Lung Association more than 200 viruses can cause common cold. However, due to Mayo Clinic, rhino virus often makes people sneeze. It is very contagious.

While cold can be caught during any time in the year, colds are easier to contract within winter periods. This is simply because many viruses that cause cold do well the atmospheric humidity is low.

Colds are spread whenever someone who is sick coughs or sneezes, sending virus-infested droplets flying around in the air.

You could become sick when you come in contact with a surface which has been recently handled by someone who is infected as well as touching your mouth, eyes or nose afterwards. You become contagious within the first 2 – 4 of contracting the virus.

How to treat a cold

Since cold is a viral related infection, antibiotics don’t work well in treating it.

Nevertheless, over-the-counter drugs like NSAIDS, acetaminophen, decongestants, and antihistamines can reduce aches, congestion, as well as other cold symptoms. Drink plenty fluids to prevent dehydration.

Some persons stick with natural remedies like vitamin C, zinc, or echinacea for preventing cold symptoms. There is mixed proof as to whether it’s working.

A study was able to establish that high amounts of zinc lozenges may reduce cold lengths when taken in 24 hours of visible symptoms.

Although vitamin C does not prevent colds, it reduces the symptoms when taken consistently, based on a review by Cochrane in 2013. Echinacea has not been seen as a trusted means for treating or preventing colds. Another 2017 study was able to show that vitamin D aids in fighting against flu and colds.

Colds usually disappear within a period of seven to ten days. Consult a medical personnel if:

  • you are yet to feel better after a week due to cold
  • you are having high fever
  • the fever is not coming down

You may have bacterial infection or allergies that needs antibiotics like strep throat or sinusitis. A stubborn cough may equally be an indication of bronchitis or asthma

How to prevent a cold

There is this old saying, “We could put somebody on the moon, yet we can cure common cold.” Although it is true that medical professionals are yet to come up with any vaccine, you could deploy various ways for preventing this affliction


Since colds spread quickly, the best prevention should be avoidance. Avoid those who are sick. Do not share personal items or utensils. Sharing can go either ways – so whenever you are sick with cold, just stay indoors.

Good hygiene

Be used to good hygiene. Use soap and hot water in washing your hands regularly for ridding your hands of any possible germs, or apply alcohol-grounded hand sanitizers.

Stop using your hands to touch your nose, mouth and eyes when you know they aren’t washed. Use something to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. After that make sure your hands are washed always.

What’s the seasonal flu?

Influenza is just another respiratory illness. Dissimilar to a cold, flu is mostly seasonal. The flu season is normally from the fall to the spring season, with peak occurrences during winter.

Within flu seasons you can contract flu as easy as you would contract a cold: via coming in contact with droplets left by infected persons. You become contagious from between 5 and 7 days of discovering symptoms and one day prior to getting sick.

This seasonal flu is brought about by influenza A, B, as well as C viruses, influenza A and influenza B being more common. Active influenza virus strains do vary yearly. That is why new flu vaccines are developed yearly.

Different from common cold, flu may develop into something worse like pneumonia. Usually this is true for:

  • older adults
  • pregnant women
  • young children
  • people who have health conditions which weaken the effectiveness of their immune system, like heart disease, asthma, or diabetes

How to treat the flu

In many cases, fluids as well as rests are the most effective ways of treating this flu. Consume plenty fluids to avoid dehydration. OVC decongestants as well as pain reliever like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help you control the symptoms and make you feel much better.

However, you should never administer aspirin to a child. It could increase the chances of a serious condition known as Reye’s syndrome

Your medical adviser may suggest antiviral drug – peramivir (Rapivab), zanamivir (Relenza), or oseltamivir (Tamiflu) – for treating the flu.

These medications can reduce the flu’ duration and prevent against complications like pneumonia. Nevertheless, they stand a chance of being effective when they are not administered 48hrs from when you become sick.

When to consult a doctor

Should you be at the point of having complications due to flu, consult your doctor whenever you initially have the symptoms. People who stand a high chance of developing complications are:

  • people older than 65
  • children below 2yrs
  • pregnant women
  • children less than 18 who are consuming aspirin
  • women with 2 weeks postpartum
  • people who have weakened immune system because of HIV, chemotherapy, or steroid
  • those who are very obese
  • those with serious heart or lung conditions
  • those who have metabolic disorders, like diabetes, kidney disease or anemia
  • those staying in care facilities for a long time

Consult your doctor straight away when your symptoms don’t get better of when they become worse. Consult your medical adviser if you’ve got symptoms of pneumonia, and:

trouble breathing

  • green mucus cough
  • serious sore throat
  • high and continuous fever
  • chest pains

Call your doctor immediately when your child has any of these symptoms:

  • breathing difficulty
  • irritability
  • severe fatigue
  • refusal to drink or eat
  • difficulty in interacting or waking up

Staying healthy

Getting flu shot is the most reliable way of protecting yourself against the flu. Many doctors recommend that people get the flu shot during October or as the flu season is about to begin.

Nevertheless, you could still take the flu shot during winter or late fall. This flu vaccine can aid in protecting you from coming down with the flu as well as making the illness to be less serious if you ever catch it.

To protect yourself from getting the flu, use soap combine with warm water to wash your hands, or employ alcohol-grounded hand sanitizer. Stop using your hand to touch your mouth, nose and eyes. Avoid those who are infected with flu-resembling symptoms or the flu.

It is relevant you adopt healthy habits for keeping flu and cold germs far from you. Always get adequate sleep, take lots of vegetables and fruits, manage stress and exercise during flu and cold seasons as well as beyond.



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