How to Know Whether you’re Suffering from a Cold or a Flu?

Have you ever come across a friend or family member with a box of tissues, loudly proclaiming they have the flu? There’s a common misconception that a few sneezes, a sore throat and a running nose is a flu. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Within this article we will be outlining the symptoms for each, in order for you to differentiate between the two. That’s not to say both cannot be deadly in the right circumstances, but it can greatly help those who believe they are suffering from either one or the other.

The common cold

The common cold is an infectious viral disease that spreads through close contact with other sufferers, or indirectly through the mouth or nose when you’ve made contact with objects cold sufferers have touched.  Primarily, cold sufferers can experience coughing, a runny nose, sneezing, headaches, fever and a sore throat. If you suffer from other conditions, the risk of catching pneumonia as a result of the common cold is also much higher.

Often, the symptoms of a cold are actually not related to the cold itself, they are related to your body’s response to it. If you have a low or weakened immune system, your immune system is reacting to the infection rather than the infection attacking your body.

Unlike influenza (flu), there is no cure or vaccine for the common cold. You can take preventative measures such as staying away from friends and family suffering from a cold, and by washing your hands and being sanitary. You can also take over-the-counter medication to mask the symptoms, however there’s no evidence to say these actually cure the common cold. You must simply wait it out.


Influenza is an often far more serious virus than the common cold, especially in the elderly or those with a weakened immune system. The key is to notice the symptoms and take action. You can either opt for over-the-counter medication if you are in general good health, or see your doctor. If you suffer from other illnesses, seeing a doctor can often be a good idea. This can help prevent further complications.

Symptoms include:

Fatigue – this is generally sudden and excessive. You may feel lethargic and unable to complete simple tasks.

Body aches and chills – your body can ache anywhere, and you can feel cold all of a sudden for no reason.

Cough – a persistent cough is a good indication that you’re coming down with the flu. As soon as you begin to experience shortness of breath, chest tightening, Asthma related symptoms or wheezing, see a doctor. This is especially important if you have asthma or any other chest-related illnesses or conditions. A simple cough as a result of the flu virus can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia.

Sore throat – this is generally as a result of the persistent coughing.

Fever – if your temperate measures 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you may be suffering from a flu-related fever.

Gastrointestinal symptoms – this could include diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting.

Children can sometimes exhibit different symptoms to adults, such as:

  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Irritability
  • Minimal interaction
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Rash

Flu vaccines can help prevent the flu, but as there are several strains of the flu, you aren’t guaranteed to be protected against them all. However, you can greatly reduce the risk by ensuring you get your annual flu shot.

Although both the common cold and the flu can often be dealt with in the comfort of your own home, not everyone has the same symptoms or the same severity level. This means it’s essential you see your doctor if:

  • You develop chest pain
  • You can’t breathe properly
  • You are severely dehydrated and are struggling to drink
  • You are dizzy
  • Your fever is worsening
  • Your cough is worsening

Both colds and flus can be life-threatening, depending on the person and situation. It’s important you differentiate between the two, and take appropriate action.  An interesting fact about the common colds is that person will suffer much more when he or she is feeling lonely. This is according to the L.A Times.