Cold vs Flu: What’s The Difference?

by Regina

Cold And Flu, Headaches, Sneezing

sneezing-cold-flu-by-foshydog.jpg Every year, we all go through rounds of colds and flu.

Because the symptoms are so similar, most of us don’t even realize that colds and the flu are 2 completely different things. But they are.

Here’s a little about how you catch a cold vs the flu, and how long you’re actually contagious…


How You Catch A Cold

While both are viruses, colds are not generally speaking transmitted through the air via coughing or sneezing.

Over 200 different varieties of viruses can cause the symptoms of a cold. The most common virus is called the rhinovirus. Other viruses include the corona virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, enterovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus.  — University of Virginia Health System

bad-cold-stuffy-head-by-penmachine.jpg Instead, it is more likely that you will get a cold after coming into physical contact with a contaminated item (such as your fingers after you’ve wiped a child’s nose) and you forgot to wash your hands.

Or, when you touch something that someone else with a cold has touched, then you rub your eye for example, you can get the cold virus that way too.

Since you touch surfaces handled by thousands of individuals every day and breathe in the droplets of a variety of sneezing strangers, it would be harsh to blame your loved ones for every sniffle you develop.Indeed, for every symptomatic individual, there are two or three infectious people touching things with virus-infected fingers. Hand-washing may reduce infection rates, but you’d have to wear a space mask to rule it out entirely. — The Hindu: Sci Tech

How You Get The Flu

sneezing-photo-by-placbo.jpg There are many different types of flu, and many more sub-types. The 3 main types of flu are: Type A influenza, Type B influenza, and Type C influenza.

Type A influenza is the most frightening and is believed to be responsible for the global outbreaks of 1918, 1957, and 1968. — MedTV

If you have a flu virus and you cough or sneeze (or in any way eject droplets with the virus in them out into the air), all someone has to do is come into contact with those droplets by breathing them in and they can get the flu also.

The flu virus is much more harmful than a cold virus, and can even be deadly — particularly for those who are elderly or whose immune systems are already compromised.

This is why doctors urge us to get a flu shot every year. While it’s true that some years the vaccine isn’t as good as others (particularly if the virus mutates), the flu vaccine still helps your body to fight off the flu.




Which Do You Have: A Cold Or The Flu?

At first, the symptoms of colds and flu may seem the same, but they’re really not.

Cold symptoms are generally just centered above the neck. You might have a runny nose or a sore (but not a red throat), as well as a stuffed up head. Sometimes you’ll get a headache, but that’s about it.

Colds are relatively innocuous. In fact, adults rarely run a fever with a cold. Infants and toddlers might run a fever of 100 to 102 degrees.

Once you have “caught” a cold, the symptoms begin in 1 to 5 days. Usually irritation in the nose or a scratchy feeling in the throat is the first sign, followed within hours by sneezing and a watery nasal discharge. Within 1 to 3 days, the nasal secretions usually become thicker and perhaps yellow or green — this is a normal part of the common cold and not a reason for antibiotics … The entire cold is usually over all by itself in about 7 days, with perhaps a few lingering symptoms (cough) for another week. If it lasts longer, consider another problem, such as a sinus infection or allergies. — DrGreene




Unlike cold symptoms (which are mostly centered in your nose), flu symptoms affect other parts of your body as well. Some of the symptoms commonly associated with the flu include:

  • all over body aches and pains
  • cough
  • fever
  • flushed face
  • runny nose
  • lack of energy

Fevers can run anywhere from 102 to 106, althou
gh typically adults tend to be at the lower end of that range.

The flu starts out with the aches and pains mentioned which is in the first few days of infection, and then you get a few days after that you get the respiratory symptoms. Overall the flu can last as long as a couple of weeks, and the weakness and tiredness can last for a few weeks beyond that even.

The incubation period is 1-4 days, with an average of 2 days. Adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before getting symptoms and up to 7 days after getting sick. Children can be infectious for up to 10 days, and young children can shed virus for up to 6 days before their illness onset. Severely immunocompromised persons can shed virus for weeks or months. — Centers for Disease Control


Still not sure if you have a cold or the flu?… Check this Cold and Flu Symptoms Comparison Chart.