COLD & FLU BASICS

COLD & FLU BASICS

Facts

DON’T LET COLD AND FLU CONFUSE YOU

Because of the overlap in symptoms, people often mix up cold and flu. Understand the differences between cold and flu by considering the facts.

Cold & Flu Causes

Cold Flu
The common cold is a viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). It’s generally not considered serious, and most people recover within a week or two.1 There are over 100 viruses that can cause the common cold. 1 The flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus that affects your entire respiratory system—nose, throat and lungs.2 Since these viruses constantly change, even if you’ve had the flu in the past, your body might be susceptible to a new strain this year.3

Compare Cold & Flu Symptoms5,6   

Cold Flu
Rare Common
Mild Moderate to severe
Rare Common
Slight Common and often severe
Less common Common
Common Less common
Less Common Common
Common; a hacking cough that brings up mucus Common; a cough that gets more wet with progression.
Mild to moderate Often severe

Fever

Fatigue

Chills

Body aches

Headaches

Stuffy nose

Sore throat

Cough-What type

Chest Congestion

How Long Will You Be Contagious With Cold & Flu

Cold Flu
You are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days after symptoms first appear. However, symptoms may continue to linger. You are most contagious for the first 1 or 2 days before symptoms first appear and 5 to 7 days after symptoms develop. 

The Bottom Line on Cold & Flu

Cold Flu
Cold symptoms are generally less severe than those associated with the flu and develop gradually. Flu symptoms develop quickly6 and can range from mild to severe, and may sometimes lead to pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections.2
  • Cold & Flu Causes

    Cold Flu
    The common cold is a viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). It’s generally not considered serious, and most people recover within a week or two.1 There are over 100 viruses that can cause the common cold. 1 The flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus that affects your entire respiratory system—nose, throat and lungs.2 Since these viruses constantly change, even if you’ve had the flu in the past, your body might be susceptible to a new strain this year.3
  • Compare Cold & Flu Symptoms5,6

    Cold Flu
    Rare Common
    Mild Moderate to severe
    Rare Common
    Slight Common and often severe
    Less common Common
    Common Less common
    Less common
    Common
    Common; a hacking cough that brings up mucus Common; a cough that gets more wet with progression.
    Mild to moderate Often severe

    Fever

    Fatigue

    Chills

    Body aches

    Headaches

    Stuffy nose

    Sore throat

    Cough-What type

    Chest discomfort

  • How Long Will You Be Contagious With Cold & Flu

    Cold Flu
    You are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days after symptoms first appear. However, symptoms may continue to linger. You are most contagious for the first 1 or 2 days before symptoms first appear and 5 to 7 days after symptoms develop. 
  • The Bottom Line on Cold & Flu

    Cold Flu
    Cold symptoms are generally less severe than those associated with the flu and develop gradually. Flu symptoms develop quickly6 and can range from mild to severe, and may sometimes lead to pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections.2

Sources:

  1. "Common Cold." Risk Factors. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/basics/risk-factors/con-20019062
  2. "Influenza (flu)." - Mayo Clinic. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/basics/definition/con-20035101
  3. "Common Cold." Risk Factors. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/basics/risk-factors/con-20019062
  4. "Influenza (flu)." Risk Factors. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/basics/risk-factors/con-20035101
  5. "Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine." (2015). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
  6. "Cold Versus Flu." (2011). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm