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Now that winter is about to arrive, the outside temperature will surely drop a lot, and many of us could catch a cold, or worse, the flu. But you may wonder, isn’t the flu and a cold the same thing? Well, no, but then what is the difference between a cold and flu? The medium in which they travel from person to person is indeed the air, and they also have some similar symptoms, but they are two very different things. 

The difference between a cold and flu


The cold is called a series of non-acute symptoms, such as mild fever (rarely), runny nose, eye irritation, dry cough, sneezing, increased volume of the nasal mucosa, and some body aches. The viruses capable of triggering these symptoms are over 200. The cold is not usually severe, and in many cases, only rest and proper nutrition are recommended since the common cold is not fatal at all, and the symptoms are generally mild and short-lived. The common cold incubation period is between 48 and 72 hours.



Unlike the common cold, the flu is caused by a specific virus, which is the Influenza Virus and is considered an acute respiratory disease. Symptoms appear abruptly and are accompanied by fever. It is very common to confuse these symptoms with a common cold, but it is a mistake since the flu is more serious than the cold. The flu’s main symptoms are very high fever, severe headaches, severe muscle aches, frequent coughing, and an elevated feeling of fatigue.


It is very common for someone in the drugstore to be looking for a medicine to fight the flu when they suffer from a common cold and vice versa. That is why it is essential to know the difference between a cold and flu, identify the symptoms, and act correctly in any case. Of course, self-medication is not recommended; it is always good to know the opinion of a doctor or an expert in the field who can guide us.

Who is most vulnerable?

Anyone and at any age can suffer from both diseases; however, the flu can sometimes be more serious in certain groups of people, especially those who can suffer high complications if they become infected with the virus.

They are considered high-risk people for the Influenza virus; children under five years old, adults over 65 years old, obese people, people who suffer from chronic diseases, lung or neurological diseases, or those with weakened immune systems.

As for the common cold, all people of all ages can get one at some time, which is very common. Each person’s immune system determines how their body fights the virus. The cold is present throughout the year but predominates in seasonal changes, especially cold ones, since it can cause a decrease in our defenses, which makes contagion more favorable. That is why specific vitamins are recommended in cold times of the year, to keep the immune system 100%.

What to do in each situation?

As we said earlier, colds and flu are transmitted by air, and prevention is complicated because transmission can occur without the person knowing they have the virus. Besides, these types of diseases are easily contagious between people. Despite this being the case, it is always good to take measures that help prevent contagion. Here are five tips that may help you.

Honey and Lemon for a Cold Remedy
  1. Take good care of your hygiene. Hygiene is essential when it comes to fighting foreign agents in the environment since it prevents viruses from entering your body. A virus can live for up to two hours after being expelled by sneezing or coughing, so it is vitally important to wash your hands frequently. Clean contact surfaces between many people, avoid contact with people who have a disease and avoid objects that have contact with saliva or any secretion.
  2. Use your forearm. When we sneeze or cough, we can release the viruses that cause a cold or flu, which is why it is best to use your forearm to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing, or use a paper tissue and dispose of it right away.
  3. Get vaccinated. Even though there is a vaccine for the flu that can help prevent the development of the disease, the resistance to this vaccine varies from season to season, its application is recommended. Although the vaccine does not prevent the flu’s development in all cases, this is also another difference between the cold and flu.
  4. Lead a healthy life. A proper diet is vital to maintain good health and high defenses that can fight these diseases. That is why you should also avoid smoking and stress. A proper diet will keep your defenses high, and the chances of developing the disease will be much lower.
  5. Do not expose yourself to sudden changes in temperature. It is crucial that you do not expose yourself to very cold, or to a lot of heat; it is also important that you do not make very sudden temperature transitions as this brings down your defenses and favors the development of viruses.
A bowl of chicken soup

Remember that antibiotics only work against bacteria and fungi. For viruses, only drugs that help improve the patient’s general health are applied. The body is responsible for eliminating infections through the defense mechanisms of the immune system.

Bottom line

The cold and flu are similarly transmitted diseases and are both viral; however, there are many differences. Always remember to have preventive measures to avoid contracting these diseases and remember not to sneeze or cough without covering your mouth and nose. If you feel symptoms, it is best to see a doctor and knowing the identification of the difference between a cold and flu. Protect your health!

A table of symptoms of cold and flu.