Spot the Difference: Do you know the difference between a cold and the flu?

Cold_and_Flu_VirusAn estimated one third of Britons wrongly think that flu is just a bad cold. Although many symptoms of cold and flu overlap, they are very different so it is essential to understand which illness you have.

Common symptoms of a cold include a runny nose, blocked nose, sore throat, sneezing and coughing, but you may also develop a mild fever, earache, tiredness and headache. Symptoms develop over one or two days and gradually get better after a few days, although some colds can last for up to two weeks.

Flu usually comes on much more quickly than a cold, and common symptoms include fever or chills, muscle aches and pains, sweating, feeling exhausted, dry, chesty cough and sneezing. Flu symptoms appear one to three days after infection and most people recover within a week, although fatigue may last longer (up to two or three weeks). Flu can cause serious respiratory complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in at-risk groups, including people over 65, people with diabetes, serious heart or chest complaints (including asthma) or serious kidney or liver disease, people with lowered immunity due to disease or medical treatment and those who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

The table below gives a brief summary of the differences between colds and the flu:

Cold Flu
Fever Sometimes Common: higher than 38°C and lasts 3-4 days
Headache Sometimes Common
General aches & pains Common: mild Common: often severe
Fatigue / weakness Common: quite mild Common: can last up to 2-3 weeks
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Chest discomfort /cough Common: mild to moderate, often a hacking cough Common: can become severe.
Complications Sinus congestion or earache Bronchitis or pneumonia, which can be life threatening.
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