Lifestyle07 June 2019

Know the difference between a cold and the flu


The common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses and both are caused by viruses. If you have a bad cold and a mild flu, the symptoms may even feel similar. However, they are very different diseases.

The difference is important because it can affect what you can do to prevent the disease, as well as what you should be aware of if you’re infected.

Here are a few differences:

  • The flu virus spreads more rapidly in cold, damp air.
  • There is a vaccination for the flu, but not for the common cold.
  • The flu usually has more intense symptoms than a cold, with potentially serious complications.
  • While a cold is usually less worrisome than the flu, colds can lead to bacterial infections.
  • The symptoms of a cold can develop gradually, while flu symptoms usually hit fast and are severe.
Symptom Cold Flu
Fever Rare High (37 - 39C), can last 3-4 days
Headache Rare Intense
General aches, pains Mild Very common, often severe
Fatigue, weakness Mild Intense, can last up to 2-3 weeks
Extreme exhaustion Never Very common, starts early
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Very common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Common
Cough Mild to moderate Common, can become severe

Source: American lung association: 'Cold and flu guidelines: Influenza'

The next time you experience a cold or a flu, remember that these are caused by viruses and so taking antibiotics which target conditions caused by bacteria may not help with your cold or flu.1

Studies suggest a cold or flu has to run its course while you get plenty of physical and emotional rest.2 There are also many over-the-counter medications that can help relieve your symptoms.2 As with any illness, however, if symptoms persist or worsen it’s best to go see your healthcare provider to determine what’s making you sick and what you can do to feel better.

1 United States Food and Drug Administration, “Antibiotics Aren't Always the Answer,” November 2016

2 American Lung Association, "A Survival Guide for Preventing and Treating Influenza and the Common Cold." October 2016

© MetLife Insurance Limited (MetLife) 2017. While care has been taken in preparing this material, MetLife does not warrant or represent that the information, opinions or conclusions contained in this information are accurate. The information provided is general information only is current as at the time of production. It has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. MetLife recommends that you obtain independent and specific advice from appropriate professionals before implementing a financial strategy, including reading any relevant product disclosure statements and/or terms and conditions.

This article has been provided by MetLife Insurance limited. Tasplan Super and MetLife aren't agents or representatives of one another.

This article has been republished with permission from the author.

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