Cold vs. the Flu


The common cold and influenza (the flu) are both viruses, but it’s important to know the difference between them. Katie Schill, nurse practitioner with Palmetto Health’s Mobile Clinic, explains what to look for:
A cold is a respiratory virus that is quite mild when compared to the flu. You’re less likely to have a fever with a cold, and symptoms occur gradually over a day or two. With the flu, you’ll experience a sudden onset of symptoms, which commonly include a fever.
With a cold, a stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing and coughing are common. With the flu, a cough is common and can be quite severe, but a runny nose, sore throat and sneezing are not.
Head and body aches can happen but are milder and less frequent with a cold. With the flu, they are very common and are generally some of the first symptoms you’ll experience. They’re also more severe. While you may feel tired or weak with a cold, you will be very fatigued and weak for days and sometimes weeks with influenza.
The common cold can impact anyone, while influenza tends to be seen among those who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women and those with certain chronic illnesses.
To reduce your chances of catching these viruses, practice good hand hygiene, and be sure to get a flu shot. If you suspect you or your loved one has influenza, it’s best to be seen sooner rather than later, as Tamiflu (an antiviral medication) is only effective if it’s started within a designated timeframe from the onset of symptoms.