Colds and the flu are often confused, and it’s easy to understand why. Colds and the flu are caused by viral respiratory infections that can lead to similar symptoms. Various viruses cause colds, and “cold” is used as a catchall term for many mild, seasonal viral infections. The flu is a specific virus, influenza, with more specific and severe symptoms.
It is essential to understand the difference between cold and flu symptoms so that you treat them effectively and reduce the chance of wider transmission. It can be challenging to know which one you have based on symptoms alone. If you are experiencing severe or persistent cold or flu symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor for a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan.
The common cold is a condition many people have at least once a year, and the symptoms can run from mild to severe. Colds usually have a gradual onset, with symptoms becoming more noticeable over a few days.
Some common symptoms that many people experience while fighting a common cold include a runny nose and nasal or sinus congestion, sneezing, a sore throat, and a mild cough. Some people also have mild to moderate fatigue.
Symptoms are generally mild, and people tend to feel better after a few days. Common colds do not have severe symptoms like vomiting, fever, muscle aches, or headaches.
Unfortunately, no medication can cure the common cold virus; it just needs to run its course. However, you can manage the symptoms and boost your immune system to help it fight the cold virus.
You should get plenty of rest and sleep and avoid going to crowded areas where you could spread the virus. You should stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids, especially water, though having certain fruit juices that are low in sugar and rich in vitamin C can also help.
Some over-the-counter medications can also help relieve some of the symptoms of a common cold. Antihistamines and decongestants like pseudoephedrine, chlorpheniramine, and diphenhydramine can help alleviate nasal symptoms like congestion or a runny nose.
An antitussive like dextromethorphan can effectively treat a dry cough, and an expectorant like Guaifenesin can be good for treating a cough with phlegm.
Over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen can relieve muscular aches and pains that might accompany a common cold. However, before taking any medication, it is vital to have a health check and speak with a doctor to know what is right for you.
Generally, flu symptoms are stronger than the symptoms associated with a common cold. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, head and body aches, sore throat, a fever between 38°C and 40°C, a cough, intense fatigue, nausea in adults, and vomiting and diarrhoea in children.
The flu may not be accompanied by the nasal and sinus symptoms often present with the common cold. While this can be an excellent way to distinguish the two, it is not foolproof, and the only way to know which virus you have is to have a health check from a doctor.
While there are differences between cold and flu, like the common cold, there is no cure for the influenza virus. You can take steps to help mitigate the severity of flu symptoms and help speed up your recovery.
Like with a common cold, rest and sleep are very important, as is staying hydrated. Hydration is particularly crucial if you have a fever, as dehydration can occur quickly if you are experiencing a fever. Influenza is highly contagious, so avoid crowded places where you could spread the virus. It is best to stay home, rest, and recover.
Anti-inflammatory analgesics like ibuprofen are often the most effective choice as they can relieve several flu symptoms, including head and body aches and lower a fever. Cough treatments like expectorants and antitussives are helpful for respiratory flu symptoms.
Generally, flu symptoms are more serious than cold symptoms, so it is essential to have a health check from your doctor if you have the flu to make sure you take the right over-the-counter medication and recover quickly.
Difference Between Cold and Flu
Common colds and the flu have similar symptoms and similar treatments; however, there is a difference between cold and flu, and they need to be treated differently.
If you have some of the symptoms of either, it is important to schedule a health check with your doctor as soon as you can. The quicker you begin to rest, hydrate, and treat the symptoms of the illness, the quicker you will recover. Your doctor can examine you and give you a treatment program that will get you back on your feet soon, no matter if it’s a cold or flu that has got you down.
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