What Is the Difference Between Cold and Flu? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention | Healthcarthub

Influenza, or even the flu, and also the common cold could be tricky to differentiate. Both of them are respiratory system illnesses brought on by infections, plus they share many signs and symptoms.

Both common cold and also the flu are contagious, but cold signs and symptoms are usually milder and improve inside a week to ten days, based on the Mayo Clinic. (1) Some individuals who obtain the flu recover in under two days, the signs and symptoms tend to be more severe, and heavy complications, for example pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus or ear infections, can be cultivated, notes the Cdc and Prevention (CDC). (2)

Since common colds and also the flu come from infections, instead of bacteria, antibiotics aren’t very effective treatments option.

Signs and Signs and symptoms of Cold and Flu

Both flu and common colds modify the respiratory system system, though flu signs and symptoms are usually more serious than individuals from the common cold.

“There are lots of different infections that induce a chilly, but many of these infections cause much the same cold signs and symptoms,” states Aaron E. Glatt, MD, a contagious illnesses and infection control consultant at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New You are able to.

Signs and symptoms the common cold and flu share can include:

  • body aches
  • headache
  • a sore throat
  • cough
  • nasal congestion
  • sneezing
  • fever

Influenza is generally supported by greater fever (102 levels F or greater), and influenza signs and symptoms have a tendency to seriously more all of a sudden.

“Run-of-the-mill common colds usually cause you to feel lousy but shouldn’t hinder day to day activities,” states Stephen Russell, MD, a helper professor of drugs in the College of Alabama in Birmingham and also the lead physician from the UAB Moody Health Clinic.

Some common colds don’t require a vacation to the physician, they turns into some thing serious. Based on the American Academy of Family Physicians, some indicators to consider include high fever, difficulty breathing, and signs and symptoms that last greater than ten days or keep getting worse.

Causes and Risks of Cold and Flu

Influenza is because influenza infections, however, many distinct infections (most generally rhinoviruses) may cause a chilly.

Certain populations tend to be more prone to obtaining a cold or even the flu, such as the very youthful, the seniors, and individuals having a compromised defense mechanisms.

Factors that may improve your chance of becoming infected include:


Children more youthful than 6 tend to be more in danger of common colds and flu, particularly if they’re inside a daycare or school. Adults over age 65 tend to be more prone to influenza and related complications.


Periodic flu activity typically occurs between October and could (flu season), although flu infections remain all year long.

Similarly, many people develop common colds during the cold months and spring, however they can happen anytime. Based on the CDC, adults average 2 to 3 common colds every year. (4)

Weakened Defense Mechanisms

Infections can easier infiltrate your body for those who have a weakened defense mechanisms. Certain chronic illnesses, for example cancer, Aids or AIDS, and autoimmune illnesses raise the chance of catching a chilly or even the flu.


Chronic smoking makes your respiratory system system more susceptible to cold and flu infections and complications.


Women within their second or third trimester are particularly prone to complications in the flu. “We’re not quite sure why, but there’s always been an issue of set up defense mechanisms changes while pregnant,” states Laura Riley, MD, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and obstetrician-doctor in chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New You are able to City.

What kinds of Flu Exist?

Just like a common cold, influenza is because infections. You will find four kinds of influenza infections: A and B, that are most generally connected with periodic flu activity and epidemics C, that is relatively rare and results in mild respiratory system illness and D, which mainly affects cattle.

Influenza A

There are lots of subtypes of influenza A infections, according to two proteins – hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) – available on the top of infections. Two strains of influenza A present in people would be the H1N1 strain and also the H3N2 strain.

A singular strain of influenza A (H1N1) virus, referred to as h1n1 virus because it’s typically spread among pigs, brought to some flu pandemic in ’09. Between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimates there were 60.8 million h1n1 virus cases within the U . s . States, which brought to greater than 274,000 hospitalizations and nearly 12,500 deaths. (5) The influenza pandemic of 1918 was an H1N1 virus of avian origin.

The H3N2 virus usually causes more serious signs and symptoms and could be particularly harmful towards the youthful and seniors. Flu seasons which have most cases from the H3N2, like the 2017-2018 flu season, generally have greater rates of hospitalizations and flu-related deaths. H3N2 is especially up against the flu vaccine, also it mutates more quickly than other strains.

Influenza B

Less frequent than influenza A, these infections cause similar signs and symptoms and can result in outbreaks or pandemics. Influenza B isn’t categorized by subtypes, but there’s two strains from the virus: Yamagata and Victoria.

Research printed in Clinical Infectious Illnesses in This summer 2014 challenged the perception that influenza B was milder than influenza A. (6)

Influenza C

Like influenza A and B, these infections are located in humans. But influenza C infections are milder and don’t cause epidemics. Periodic flu vaccines, that have strains of influenza A and B, don’t safeguard against influenza C infections.

Influenza D

This strain of influenza isn’t recognized to cause illness in humans. It mainly affects cattle, though researchers at South Dakota College note that could eventually form a brand new strain that poses much more of a menace to humans. (7)

How Are Cold and Flu Diagnosed?

There’s no specific test to identify the most popular cold. In case your signs and symptoms tend to be more severe, your physician may order tests or X-sun rays to eliminate certain illnesses, for example strep throat or pneumonia.

To identify influenza, doctors sometimes make use of a rapid influenza diagnostics test, notes the CDC. (8) Swab samples in the nose or back from the throat are tested for influenza viral antigens. Test answers are usually ready in under half an hour, but they’re not necessarily accurate. There are more, more reliable flu tests that may be performed only in hospitals or specialized laboratories.

Time period of Cold and Flu

The time period of a chilly or flu varies with respect to the virus involved and also the immune system’s capability to protect against infection. That is why the youthful, the seniors, and individuals with chronic illnesses are most prone to infections and possible complications.

Cold signs and symptoms typically subside within about a week, as the flu may last as long as two days. Despite most signs and symptoms subside, some, like fatigue and cough, can linger for a few days or days more.

“The best weapon we’ve is our very own defense mechanisms,” states Jesse W. Novey, MD, a household and integrative medicine specialist in Poulsbo, Washington. Good diet, sufficient sleep and workout, and occasional stress levels can bolster the defense mechanisms. “A failure on these four points can weaken the defense mechanisms and only prolong a current cold or result in more frequent ones,” Dr. Novey states.

Treatment and medicine Choices for Cold and Flu

There’s no remedy for either influenza or even the common cold. You will find over-the-counter options that may ease throat discomfort and cough, decongest the nose and sinuses, and reduce body aches and headaches.

Cold medicines and discomfort relievers might have negative effects and pose health problems, especially for those who have preexisting conditions for example high bloodstream pressure. The Mayo Clinic cautions that teenagers and children with flu-like signs and symptoms should not take aspirin for discomfort or fever, because it’s been from the potentially existence-threatening condition Reye’s syndrome. (9)

Prescription antiviral drugs may be used to treat influenza. Based on the CDC, when taken within 2 days of the look of flu signs and symptoms, these drugs can shorten time you’re sick. (10) They are able to help high-risk patients avoid more severe flu-related complications.

You will find four U.S. Fda (Food and drug administration)-approved antiviral drugs suggested through the CDC: oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir, zanamivir (Relenza Diskhaler), and baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza).

Protection against Cold and Flu

To prevent obtaining the flu to begin with, the CDC recommends that everybody 6 several weeks and older obtain a flu vaccine each year. These vaccines safeguard from the infections that public medical officials anticipate is going to be most typical throughout the approaching flu season.

“The best tool to avoid influenza gets the vaccine. It isn’t perfect, but it’s the very best factor we’ve,” states Carol Baker, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Houston.

Common cold signs and symptoms typically develop about 1 to 3 days after contact with cold-causing infections.

These infections could be spread with the air, personal contact, and respiratory system secretions – items like a handshake, touching contaminated objects, and contact with an infected person’s sneezes or coughs.

“Most common colds originate from infections which are spread for every person through close contact,” states William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt College Med school in Nashville, Tennessee.

There’s no vaccine to avoid the most popular cold, but practicing good hygiene can prevent illness or distributing infections to other people. The CDC recommends washing both hands frequently not less than 20 seconds at any given time and never touching your vision, nose, or mouth with filthy hands.

Complications of Cold and Flu

Most typical common colds aren’t severe, however they can worsen or result in health problems.

“Enteroviruses which are frequently the culprits within the common cold may cause brain lining inflammation that triggers problems, difficulty searching at vibrant lights, neck stiffness, high fever, and confusion,” states Cameron Wolfe, MBBS, a contagious-disease specialist at Duke College Med school in Durham, New York.

If cold or flu signs and symptoms persist or worsen, the individual could have a secondary or microbial infection. That can result in sinus or ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Influenza may also worsen preexisting medical conditions, for example triggering bronchial asthma attacks in individuals with bronchial asthma.

More rarely, severe flu complications may include heart infections for example pericarditis and myocarditis, and brain inflammation illnesses for example encephalitis and meningitis.