Can You Differentiate Between a Common Cold and the Flu?

Influenza or the flu is sometimes mistaken as the common cold because they have similar symptoms. Unlike the common cold, people with the flu may need to be hospitalized, so it’s important to know how to distinguish between the two. The flu, if misdiagnosed, can be extremely dangerous and even fatal in some cases.

Causes and Symptoms of the Flu

Influenza is a contagious viral infection caused by the orthomyxoviridae or the influenza virus, a type of ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus.

The flu is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms like:

  •  Fever:

    One of the first signs of influenza is high fever and infected people can have temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The fever might be accompanied by chills and shivers.

  • Nasal congestion and cough:

    Similar to a cold, the flu might bring on nasal congestion, especially in children. A cough may also be present.

  • Body aches and fatigue:

    Infected individuals might experience body aches that may go as deep as the bones; muscle inflammation may also be seen. This could be accompanied by extreme fatigue.

  • Vomiting and loss of appetite:

    Some may also experience vomiting and loss of appetite.

Since this is a contagious disease, it is important to understand its pattern. In adults, the virus can spread up to one day before symptoms start appearing and up to one week after the symptoms appear. The infection period is longer in children.

The influenza virus can spread by:

  • Air:

    Being an airborne virus, it can be transmitted simply by inhaling the droplets that come from a sneeze or a cough. These droplets can travel to nearly 6 feet.

  • Direct contact:

    Kissing or shaking hands with an infected person and immediately touching your eyes, nose or mouth can get you infected.

  • Indirect transmission:

    The virus can be transmitted by touching anything that an infected person may have used, including clothes, bed linens, utensils and towels.

Treatment Strategies for the Flu

While there are vaccinations to help prevent the onset of the flu, once infected the doctors might simply ask you to:

  • Rest:

    The best treatment for influenza is to get enough rest. The symptoms usually ease or go away after a few days. So it is recommended to not exert energy for a few days until the symptoms subside.

  • Drink fluids:

    Staying hydrated is the key to coping with the flu. So drink lots of water and citrus juices to keep the body hydrated.

  • Antiviral drugs:

    Antiviral medications may be prescribed for severe infections because they can help rid the body of the virus and speed up recovery. Commonly prescribed medications include oseltamivir and zanamivir, but over-the-counter medicines for fever and pain might also be beneficial.

Some alternative therapies might also benefit those suffering from the flu. These include:

Influenza can spread quickly and the best way to prevent an infection is to be aware of the health conditions in your neighborhood and surroundings.

If there is an influenza infection in the area, you could:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Wash hands thoroughly
  • Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Get vaccinated

Can You Differentiate Between a Common Cold and the Flu?

Though the flu is a common infection, some strains of it can be fatal. Hence, it is better to be pro-active and follow hygiene practices at home and at work to avoid being infected or spreading an infection.

The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.


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