Flu Versus Cold; Any Difference?

lady with flu

See Why You Mistake Flu for Cold

Why your nose gets blocked by mucus and your throat becomes sore with your head aching terribly, what comes to your mind first is “I have a cold.” However, seasonal influenza also comes with these symptoms of stuffy nose and headache, but these symptoms tend to be the most advanced version. Until a Doctor performs a test by taking samples of mucus from the back of your nose, then you cannot be sure whether you have the flu or just a cold.

Seasonal influenza can also be called flu, and both words can be used interchangeably since they mean the same thing.

Flu and cold have a lot in common; this is why most people mistake them for one another. Before further discussion into this topic, it is important to note that the degree of severity of cold and flu differ. One of them has more severe symptoms than the other. In addition, it is important to know for sure which of them you are suffering from in order to avoid wrong drug administration.

Knowing and understanding the differences between cold and flu would help you with the remedies required for the management and treatment of each. In order to know and understand the differences between the both of them, you have come to the right blog; as in this blog, the difference and similarities in symptoms, causes, and treatment methods would be elaborated.


Cold and flu are caused by one common factor-viruses. Both of them disrupt the smooth running of the respiratory processes. In other words, they are respiratory illnesses. Despite these similarities, there is a huge difference abounded in both phenomena. Determining the differences involves weighing their symptoms.

The symptoms of cold include the following;

  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Mild fatigue

While on the other hand, the symptoms of flu include;

  • Extremely dry and painful cough, one that hacks the throat
  • Fever, usually between moderate, high, and extremely high. Although over the years, it has been observed that not every flu patient develops a fever
  • Severe muscle, joints, and body aches that are capable of crippling and interfering with your daily activities
  • Chills that make you shiver and shaky
  • A severe sore throat that causes swallowing to be difficult
  • Stuffy nose; One that makes you uncomfortably breathe through your mouth
  • Fatigue that is as severe as weighing you down for up to two weeks if left untreated
  • Diarrhea symptoms are common in children suffering from influenza.
  • Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms of flu.
  • Severe pains in the chest as a result of the constant dry cough

In other words, flu is the advanced version of cold. Its symptoms are more severe than the symptoms that accompany cold.

Cold is usually milder than flu and does not last for as many days as flu lasts. With or without treatment, symptoms of cold disappear between 7 to 10 days. While on the other hand, flu lasts for up to two weeks, with or without treatment. Flu symptoms are severe, and they develop quickly. They last for up to 18 days.

Treating either of them requires you to first check for the symptoms, note the differences, and identify which of them you are suffering from before commencing treatment.

Common Cold

Common cold, just like flu, is a respiratory illness that is caused by a number of viruses which researchers have been able to estimate as over 200 viruses. Of all these 200 viruses that cause the common cold, the rhinovirus is the popular one that brings constant sneezing, wheezing, and sniffling. This virus, according to researchers, is very contagious and can spread through droplets of either the saliva or nasal mucus of the infected person.

FluCold can occur at any season of the year, but cases are more rampant during winter because the viruses that cause cold thrive more in low humidity and low humidity is the most common characteristic of winter all over the world.

Cold is transmittable and can be transmitted from one person to another through direct contact with an infected person or direct contact with objects that the infected person had contact with. When an infected person touches a surface, there is a high chance that you would contract the cold if you touch that same surface with your hands and later touch either your face, nose, or mouth with that same hand if it is unwashed. This is why it is noteworthy to keep your hands away from your face at all times. In addition, after leaving a public place, washing your hands with soap and water would help reduce your chances of developing cold and other contagious diseases.

Treating Cold

Being a viral infection, antibiotics may not have effects on the viruses. Instead, over-the-counter medications that can decongest the stuffy nose, ease the sore throat and cure the headache can be effective in eliminating the cold. Also, it is important to stay hydrated and avoid cold foods and drinks.

Cold symptoms can also be relieved through the use of vitamin C and zinc. Vitamin C and zinc, when taken consistently, can help shorten the period the cold lasts and as well reduce the impact of the symptoms to the barest minimum.

After administering these treatment therapies and the cold does not disappear between 7 to 10 days, then you should see a Doctor. In other words, see the Doctor if you experience any of the following;

  • A cold that persists after 10 days
  • Severe fever that worsens even while on medication
  • If the fever does not become better after the medication
  • When your sinuses get clogged as a result of bacteria or allergies

A nagging cough could mean you might develop either bronchitis or asthma soon enough.

Preventing Cold


Since cold spreads easily, the best way to prevent cold is to avoid people who have it. Do not have direct contact with them until they get better, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water; if by any means you touch objects they had contact with, avoid sharing utensils and personal belongings with them until they recover. In addition, it is also important to note that you should stay at home when you have a cold so that you would not go about infecting others.

Good Personal Hygiene

Always wash your hands properly to get rid of germs that you picked while you were going about your daily activities. You can wash them with warm running water and soap. In addition, alcohol-based sanitizers would help you get rid of germs easily and faster.

Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth with your hands.

Overlay your nose and mouth with a towel or handkerchief when you sneeze or cough and wash your hands afterward.

Seasonal Flu

Influenza or flu is another respiratory disease, just like the common cold that is caused by viruses. It is more common between the fall and winter months. Flu is contracted the same way cold is-through droplets from infected persons, through direct contact with infected persons and objects they touched. Symptoms of flu begin to develop about 1 week after you must have come in contact with the virus through any of the transmission modes.

Flu is caused by the A, B, and C influenza viruses, with A and B being the most common. Flu is a rigid respiratory disease that can lead to pneumonia if proper care is not taken. People who are at greater risks of developing pneumonia through influenza are;

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • People with underlying health issues that must have weakened their immune system. These illnesses include heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.

Treating Flu

The first step to treating flu is by avoiding dehydration. This involves the drinking of enough fluids. Over-the-counter pain killers and other medications can help ease symptoms. Also, Doctors can administer antiviral drugs that can shorten the total duration of the flu and prevent pneumonia and other flu complications.


sore throatDo not give children and young adults under 18 years old aspirin.

Who Should See a Doctor

  • Older adults of ages 65 and above
  • Children under 2 years
  • Under 18s taking aspirin
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a weak immune system
  • Extremely obese people
  • People with underlying health concerns like diabetes and heart diseases
  • If you experience the following even after treatment, call your Doctor.
  • Chronic sore throat
  • High fever
  • Chest pain from the cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Cough that makes you spit out green mucus
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and irritability

Preventing Flu

The prevention measures for both flu and cold are similar. Adopting and sticking to these measures would reduce your risks for developing either of them.

In conclusion, both flu and cold are respiratory diseases. They are so similar that people mistake them for each other and use them interchangeably. However, huge differences have been identified in their nature and symptoms. None is palatable; thus, preventing them is important.