Cold or Flu?
Suffering from a cough, stuffy nose, and sore throat? You may be sick, but what exactly do you have? Will it last only for a few days, or is it something more serious? Here’s a useful guide that breaks down the differences between the flu and the common cold.
The common cold
“Common cold” is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract – namely, the nose and the throat. It’s known as the “common cold” because an average adult can expect to suffer from a few colds a year. Over 100 viruses can lead to the cold, but it’s commonly caused by the highly contagious rhinovirus. This virus is prevalent all year long so you can catch a cold at any time.
The flu is also a viral infection, but it affects the entire respiratory system, including the nose, throat and lungs. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, and it is usually prevalent between the Fall and the Spring. That’s why Winter is often called the “flu season.”
So similar, yet so different
Since a cold and the flu are both viral infections that affect the respiratory system, their symptoms can be similar. For example, cough, runny nose and sore throat are typical symptoms of both flu and cold.
Where the two diseases differ is in the severity of the symptoms. Although a cold is no walk in the park, the flu is downright miserable! A cold rarely makes you feel achy or feverish, and even so these symptoms will be much less severe than those associated with the flu. For example, flu fevers are typically higher, often reaching 39 to 40 degrees Celsius.
Also, the flu can affect your entire body, not just your respiratory system. Fatigue, headaches and severe aches and pain are very common among flu sufferers. Some are even affected by shaking chills.
The Flu also lasts a lot longer than the common cold. You can usually expect to recover from your cold after a week, but a flu lasts for approximately 10 days. And that’s if it doesn’t worsen – since a flu can lead to more severe illnesses, such as pneumonia or sinusitis.
How to treat them
You can ease your symptoms by using over-the-counter medications like decongestants and pain relievers. Ask your pharmacist for their recommendations! Also, make sure to minimize the risk of getting the flu by getting a flu shot.
When to see a Doctor
Most people can treat their sickness by staying at home and resting. In certain circumstances, however, you should see a doctor or healthcare professional to make sure the flu doesn’t progress into something more severe.