What is the difference between a common cold and the flu?

January 14, 2020


The common cold and the flu are some of the fastest-spreading seasonal viruses in local communities, which can cause a spike in acute illnesses. However, many patients may not be able to determine if they have a common cold or a flu infection.
Common colds and the influenza virus can cause similar symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever, headache, and congestion. When onset symptoms begin, a patient understands that they are sick but may confuse a cold with a case of the flu. Patients need simple and effective ways to determine what the cause of their illness is in order to get the proper course of treatment.
If you’re not sure where to begin, make sure you visit a local urgent care center to have providers begin a diagnosis for treatment as well as an immediate treatment plan. Patients that may be apprehensive to getting treatment should understand the main causes, symptoms, and actionable treatment options for either a common cold or the flu virus.

Common colds and the flu are caused by different viruses

The common cold and the flu are caused by rhinoviruses and influenza viruses, respectively. A rhinovirus is a specific virus that infects a patient through either the nasal passage, throat, or mouth. Rhinoviruses come in a variety of strains that lead to the main common cold symptoms that patients are familiar with.  A patient cannot get a routine vaccination against these viruses, which means that your risk of getting a cold may extend far into the winter seasons or even early spring.
Conversely, the flu is caused by either influenza A or influenza B viruses that infect a patient through airborne transmission or direct contact with an infected individual. The flu virus can be vaccinated via a flu shot and significantly reduces a patient’s chance of getting the virus.
The symptoms of both illnesses lead to congestion, nausea, headache, fever, fatigue/loss of energy, difficulty concentrating and other types of irritating symptoms. When you have either disease, make sure you rest at home and take a few days off to fully recover. However, flu symptoms tend to last longer than common cold symptoms by a few days, or even more than a week, if a flu virus is especially virulent.

Colds and flu can be treated in similar ways

Even though a cold or the flu are caused by different viruses, a patient can treat either disease with similar treatments. Getting plenty of rest, over-the-counter medications, consistent fluids, and hearty meals can restore energy needed to fight off an infection.
For flu and common cold symptoms that continue to linger, it may be helpful to visit AFC Urgent Care Edgewater for seasonal illness treatment and lab testing that can help diagnose and alleviate symptoms fast! If you have any questions please contact the team today to get started with your treatment ASAP!


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