What is the difference between a cold and a flu?

Flu vaccinations are now available
March 13, 2017
April 13, 2017
Show all

What is the difference between a cold and a flu?

Colds are a group of symptoms characterised by congestion, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and/or sneezing. Colds are very common and usually caused by viruses. In fact, there are around 200 different viruses that can cause colds! The most common virus that causes cold is Rhinovirus.

Viruses cannot be destroyed with antibiotics. You can help your body to fight the virus by bed-rest and plenty of fluids. Medications, such as panadol, may help relieve symptoms.

A cold usually lasts 3 to 7 days, but sometimes symptoms such as coughing can last up to 2 weeks. It is not unusual for adults to get 2-4 colds per year, and children 5-10.

Colds are spread mainly through hand-to-hand contact, but also by breathing in bits of virus that have been coughed or sneezed into the air, or touching infected surfaces.

The Flu is also caused by a virus; the Influenza virus. Three different types of influenza viruses infect humans – types A, B and C. Only influenza A and B cause major outbreaks and severe disease.

The flu tends to be more severe than a cold, causing muscle aches and fevers. Symptoms also last longer. In a cold, a fever usually lasts 24-48 hours, but the flu can cause fever for 2-5 days. Most people recover within 1-2 weeks, but often keep feeling tired for longer.

Elderly people or people with chronic diseases are not as good at fighting the flu and may get very sick. It is a good idea to get a Flu Vaccine yearly. Viruses are always changing their DNA, that is why there is a new flu vaccine every year.

The flu spreads the same way as the common cold, but it is highly contageous. Good hygiene is an important way to prevent colds and flu.