Cold vs. Flu

What is the difference between a cold and the flu? The symptoms of a cold and the flu…

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The symptoms of a cold and the flu are so similar that many people confuse them. The flu is a more serious condition and because of the similarities in symptoms it is often left untreated because people think they have nothing more than a cold. Both are viral infections, but the flu can become an epidemic or a pandemic resulting in a lot of deaths.

Both a cold and the flu are associated with the colder weather of winter. Not dressing properly in cold weather will likely cause a person to contract a cold or the flu. Their symptoms are also similar to those of allergic reactions which make it more confusing.

What is a cold?

Rhinoviruses and coronaviruses are the most common causes of the common cold and the cold. This makes them the most highly infectious diseases.  The symptoms of the common cold include a sore throat, a runny nose , a cough and sometimes a mild fever. The usual duration is about a week to ten days but it can last as long as three weeks. The body’s immune system usually responds to the symptoms by fighting off the virus with the antibodies it produces. These help stop the infection and the symptoms go away by themselves and there really isn’t any treatment for this disease. A cold affects the upper respiratory tract and it causes coughing and sneezing that spreads the virus into the air. This is why it is so contagious.

What is the flu?

The flu is the shortened form of influenza, an infectious disease that is caused by Orthomyxoviridae viruses. The symptoms of this disease are chills, fever, headache, sore throat and a cough. There are three classifications of the flu – A, B and C. Pneumonia is a severe form of the disease and if left untreated it can be fatal.

People can catch the flu from another person who has it either through direct contact or by coming into contact with the germs that are spread into the air by coughing. There are vaccinations available for the flu and are especially recommended for those with respiratory illnesses, children and senior citizens. This is because this disease affects the whole respiratory system, including the lungs.

The differences and similarities between a cold and the flu

Some of the common symptoms of a cold and the flu include coughing and sneezing, sore throat, runny nose and a fever. They are caused by different viruses and the flu is more serious than a cold. There is no medication that will treat a cold and it usually clears up on its own in about seven to ten days. However, the flu can become and epidemic or a pandemic and needs to be treated. There are vaccinations to prevent its severity in children and the elderly.  A cold only affects the upper tract of the respiratory system, but the flu affects the whole system.


A cold and the flu are the same in that they are transmitted in the same way and they have similar symptoms. A cold is not as serious as the flu because it doesn’t affect all of the respiratory system.

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