Cold and Flu

Cold and flu are the most common diseases on the earth. Every person has had these diseases in his or her life. These are the two most common respiratory system illnesses. These germs have attacked every person on this planet. In all parts of the world, both children and adults are susceptible to this condition, and often with temporary symptoms and no long-term effects.

People have cold or flu every year and many times in a year. An adult catches cold two to four times in a year while a child catches cold six to eight times in a year. Normally these attacks are not too serious and the mild attacks of these diseases may end in few days time because the internal system of the body has this power to fight against the mild attacks of cold, flu.

Cold versus the Flu

Though common cold and flu are often thought to mean the same condition, they are in fact brought about by different causes, and the treatments are different as well. Aside from that, some symptoms may be similar, and some symptoms may be related to other conditions outside that of flu or a cold. The following article will help you understand the difference between cold flu.


The term cold is usually mixed with the flu and wrongly understood. The fact is that the cold and flu viruses are different types of viruses. Cold is different from the influenza (flu) virus. Medical resources sometimes refer to the common cold as acute coryza. According to health encyclopaedias, there are approximately 20 different viruses that can account for the symptoms of the common cold, the general term may be picornaviruses or coronaviruses. Sneezing, runny nose, and mild coughing are signs of this infection to the upper respiratory tract.

Cold is relatively a mild disease and may not last for more than few days but if it does then there are other things going on as well in the body, those other things may be appearance of other diseases like pneumonia. Cold can be cured easily but it will take the time, which it usually takes. Even if in mild cold case medicine is not taken then one can be healthier after the lapse of that time but if it prolongs it may cause problems.

How can a person be afflicted with the common cold? Since it is not entirely a fatal condition, anybody can get it and can soon feel normal after a few days up to a couple of weeks. This can easily be transmitted via the air, and from being around a person who has the virus. When hands are not sanitized, and when they touch the mucous membranes like the eyes and of the nose and mouth, the infection can easily enter the body. Also, sharing of items like eating utensils, linens, clothing, and others can contribute to the spread of the common cold.

Influenza (FLU)

Influenza, a condition commonly referred to as the flu, is also caused by viruses. But the general term used to describe them are influenza viruses, some of which are the same as the ones that cause the common cold. Along with the already mentioned symptoms of the common cold, a person with the flu also experiences aching joints, fevers, headache, sore throat, and chills.

Influenza is the virus that attacks the respiratory system. Influenza virus is normally of two types. These are Type A, Type B and Type C viruses. The virus of Type C is a mild one and can be easily cured and may fell like a simple cold but the other first two types of the cold are rather more dangerous and serious ones. These two types have the potential of creating life-threatening danger to the person they inflict upon. Infact, these viruses have recently taken many lives in the world especially in the East with the deadly name of Bird Flu. Bird Flu normally evolves in the birds but this may transfer to the people who are regularly in contact with those birds while working in the poultry farms and doing other works related to birds. It is not yet found whether these viruses spread from human to human contact like other cold and flu viruses do.

Like the common cold, the influenza virus is airborne, and can easily be caught by a healthy person when someone sneezes or coughs near him. Along with that, infected hands that come in contact with the mucous membranes provide a point of entry of the viruses into the individual. A person with flu may need to be treated professionally especially if complications are experienced due to diabetes, asthma, and other conditions.


The viruses of the cold and flu are the contagious ones. It means that these viruses can spread from the interaction between two human beings and may attack the person if they are present in the environment. These viruses can go inside the body of the human being by the contact and meeting of people with other people, from the air one breathes and from ones hands and bad precautionary measures taken to resist the attack of cold and flu viruses in the person.

What is the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu

Although caused by different viruses, these two common respiratory illnesses share a lot of symptoms. This makes it difficult or sometimes impossible to identify whether a person has caught a common cold or the flu, based on the symptoms alone.

Symptoms of Cold and Flu

Although cold flu symptoms are common, they differ in degree. If a person has flu, the symptoms are quickly exhibited and are often very severe. On the other hand, cold symptoms are less severe.

The following common cold versus flu symptoms chart will help you understand the differences between cold and flu symptoms and analyze whether a person has flu or cold and decide if further tests/ doctor’s help are required:

Cold Symptoms vs Flu Symptoms

Symptom Cold Flu
Fever/ High Temperature Rare or very minimal change in body temperature A major symptom. Body temperature can rise above 102 degrees and last for 3-4 days.
Headache This rarely occurs and if it does Its in mild degrees. Another major symptom
Body Aches Slight if at all. Muscle aches, usually affecting back, arms and legs. Sometimes severe
Fatigue/Weakness Slight Flu makes a person severely weak. This fatigue may last even after the flu is cured, lasting up to 2-3 weeks
Stuffy Nose and Sneezing Common symptom. It might  even be a runny nose with green or yellow colored discharge. Occurs sometimes
Sore Throat Common Occurs sometimes
Cough Sometimes Sometimes
Watery Eyes Is a common cold and flu symptoms Occurs usually when the body temperature is high
Nausea Rare Sometimes
Chills and Sweats Rare Sometimes
Loss of appetite Rare Sometimes

As you can see from the above cold vs flu symptoms chart, deciding whether a symptom is a cold or flu symptoms, can be tricky.

Cold and Flu Treatment

Since the differences between a cold and flu are minimal, the treatment processes are similar. cold flu treatment is mainly treating the symptoms.

There is no definite cure for the common cold. All one can do is try to minimize the symptoms while the body fights off the virus on his own.

In case of flu, recovery is again mainly treating the symptoms. The doctor might prescribe paracetamol if the body temperature is very high. In severe cases of flu, anti viral medicines might be prescribed. These medicines might either be tablets or inhalers and should be taken in consultation with the doctor.

Cold and Flu Remedies

The following are some cold flu remedies:

  1. If you have fever, get plenty of rest. Resting provides cold and flu relief.
  2. In order to cure cold symptoms, avoid smoking, including passive smoking.
  3. Drink lots of fluid. Clear soup especially, clear chicken soup is one of the age old home remedies for cold and flu. It helps relieve a sore throat and gives strength to the patient.
  4. Gargling with warm salt water or with some medicines if required is another cold and flu remedy. Throat sprays or lozenges also help relieve a sore throat.
  5. Avoid alcohol.
  6. Use saline water nasal drops to loosen a clogged nose in case of a severe cold and flu and provide cold flu relief.

Cold and Flu Medications

There are no specific cold and flu medicines/cold and flu pills. The medicines specifically target at alleviating a patient’s symptoms and not specifically cold and flu tablets. Take the medicine after consultation with your doctor.

There are many over the counter cold flu medication, available without a prescription. But make sure you talk to the pharmacist in case of doubts. The following are the different types of cold flu medicines:

Analgesic- these are pain killers and are prescribed for relieving body aches, muscle pains. Examples: aspirin, ibuprofen. Please consult your doctor or the pharmacist before administering these medicines, esp in case of doctors.

Decongestants: are used to clear or relieve nasal congestion. These should not be used for a long period of time, since the body gets used to the decongestants, thereby making them less effective.

Cough Suppressants- This is used for treating dry coughs. This works by reducing the body’s urge to cough.

Expectorants- Productive cough or cough that produce phlegm, are treated using these. They work by losing mucous from the respiratory tract.

Cold and Flu Prevention

How to prevent cold and flu?

The common cold and the flu have no sure-fire cures as of the present and therefore, cold flu prevention is the best way to deal with these diseases. Bed rest and sufficient fluid intake are easy to do and are the best ways of dealing with the condition. Some medications may be taken to relieve nasal congestion or coughing. Some doctors recommend flu vaccinations regularly, especially for children. Everyone must take adequate precautionary measures to avoid the attack of these diseases.

  1. Since these disease spread through contact, wash you hands frequently if you donot want to contact cold and flu. Avoid touching your nose and eyes with your hands to ensure that the germs may not transfer from the hands to more sensitive parts of the body.
  2. Another way to prevent cold, flu is to boost your immune system. Eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep are vital to the immune system.
  3. One way to avoid getting flu is to get the influenza vaccine at the start of the cold and flu season (October- November).
  4. If you have got cold and flu, make sure you cover your mouth before coughing in so that others don’t catch the disease from you.
  5. The person infected with these viruses can use handkerchiefs to avoid any transfer of germs from one body to another body.

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