Protection & Care

Cold or flu, what are the differences?

Cold or flu, what are the differences

The symptoms of a cold and the flu, two contagious viral infections, are similar, and yet these two diseases do not have the same challenges. So how do you know if it’s a “real” flu or just a cold? Learn to differentiate them. 

How can you be sure that your symptoms of cough, fever, headache and runny nose are related to a severe cold or flu  ? The two diseases are very similar, and are therefore easily confused. However, the way of treating them is not the same. Here are some important things to know to make a difference.

The common points between flu and colds

Both colds and flu are caused by viruses ( influenzae for flu and rhinovirus for colds), and can take one to two weeks to clear up.

Both spread easily among the population , causing nasal congestion, coughing, headache, sore throat, and fever.

The differences between flu and colds

Are you able to function on a daily basis, despite the symptoms? Or are you completely confused? Most people with colds get to work and take care of their children.

In case of flu, it’s impossible. In fact, the flu causes great fatigue as well as a feeling of painful aches . Fever is higher than in the common cold, and may be accompanied by chills and sweating , as well as vomiting or diarrhea. In case of flu, you are stuck in bed unable to move, with the impression that your whole body hurts.

Another clue to take into account is the speed of onset of symptoms  : the flu comes suddenly, while the cold settles slowly. Influenza is more common in winter, especially during an epidemic, and in early spring, while colds can occur in summer.

The treatment

Whether you are in the middle of the flu or in the cold, rest well and drink lots of water. There is no real treatment. Paracetamol can help relieve the pain and fever of the flu. Wash your hands often to avoid spreading the virus to those around you.

Since both diseases are caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless. It is important to treat yourself because the two pathologies can lead to complications , such as bronchitis or worsening of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pregnant women, young children, immunosuppressed people and the elderly can also suffer from serious complications. Only the annual flu vaccine protects them effectively.

Read also:
How to cure my flu?
All you need to know about the flu
Influenza vaccine: how does it work?
Colds, flu, gastroenteritis: how to protect yourself from the evils of winter
Are home remedies for colds and flu effective?
4 natural solutions to prevent the flu