You’ve probably heard people mix up the words “flu” and “cold,” making it seem like they’re the same thing. You might have also been unsure about the real differences between them and thought you had one when it was actually the other. But a cold and the flu are not the same thing. Let’s take a further look:
What is a cold?
The name “common cold” is well-deserved because colds are a frequent occurrence. Adults typically endure between two to four colds each year, and children tend to experience even more. When parents complain about their kids frequently falling ill, they’re not exaggerating; it’s considered normal for children to have five to ten colds annually.
The reason behind these frequent colds is the existence of over 200 different viruses that can trigger them. This means you can catch a cold shortly after recovering from one because they may be caused by different virus groups.
Cold symptoms vary in intensity but commonly include:
- A high temperature of 38°C or higher.
- Sneezing, along with a congested or runny nose.
- A sore throat.
Typically, a cold clears up on its own within a week without any specific treatment, and a doctor’s visit is usually unnecessary. However, if the problem persists or if you experience unusual symptoms like vomiting, shortness of breath, stiffness, chest pain, muscle aches, or if you have underlying health conditions, it’s advisable to seek medical attention.
While it’s impossible to entirely prevent catching a cold, you can reduce your risk by practising good hygiene. Frequent handwashing and avoiding the sharing of cups, plates, and utensils can certainly help protect you from these common infections.
What is the flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects your nose, throat, and sometimes your lungs. Distinguishing between a cold and the flu can be somewhat tricky, but if you’re uncertain, it’s more likely to be a cold. When you have the flu, it’s often unmistakable. The flu spreads through the inhalation of droplets from coughs and sneezes containing the virus, underlining the importance of covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
The flu can lead to severe illness and even life-threatening complications, affecting individuals of all ages throughout the year. Symptoms of the flu can vary from person to person and may include:
- High fever
- A dry, persistent cough
- Profound fatigue
- Chills and muscle aches
- Upset stomach
- Sore throat
- Sneezing and congestion
- Loss of appetite
While flu symptoms can be severe, seeking medical attention is typically unnecessary. However, if you are younger than 5 or older than 65, or if you have underlying health conditions that weaken your immune system, consulting a doctor is advisable. Additionally, if you experience chest pain, breathing difficulties, extreme lethargy, severe headaches, a rash, or have trouble drinking or retaining fluids alongside flu symptoms, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
Whether you’re dealing with the flu or a cold, most often, your body will recover on its own. Rest, staying well-hydrated, and maintaining a healthy diet are recommended. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your regular healthcare provider or schedule an online telehealth appointment with one of our doctors if you have any questions or concerns.