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Cold and Flu: Understanding the Differences, Signs, Symptoms, and Remedies

Cold and Flu: Know the Differences and Protect Yourself


At some point, almost everyone has been hit by the dreaded symptoms of cold or flu. But while they may seem similar, it’s crucial to understand the differences to manage and prevent them effectively. In this guide, we will delve into the distinctions between cold and flu, their signs, symptoms, treatment options, and remedies to feel better. Plus, get tips on how to protect yourself from falling prey to these common illnesses.

What are Cold and Flu?

Cold (Common Cold): It’s a viral infection primarily affecting the nose and throat. Colds are caused by several viruses, with rhinoviruses being the most common.

Flu (Influenza): Flu is caused by the influenza virus and affects the lungs, throat, and nose. It’s generally more severe than the common cold and can lead to serious health complications.

Differences between Cold and Flu:

  1. Cause: While both are viral infections, they’re caused by different viruses. Colds can be caused by over 200 viruses, with rhinoviruses being most common. The flu is caused by the influenza virus types A, B, and C.
  2. Severity: Colds are generally milder than the flu. The flu can lead to severe complications like pneumonia, especially in high-risk groups like children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems.
  3. Symptom Onset: Cold symptoms tend to appear gradually over a couple of days. Flu symptoms often come on suddenly and are more intense.
  4. Duration: Colds usually last about a week, while the flu can linger for up to two weeks or more, with some symptoms lasting even longer.

Signs and Symptoms:


  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Mild headache
  • Cough


  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Intense fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)


Cold: There’s no cure for the common cold. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies, pain relievers, and decongestants can help.

Flu: Antiviral drugs can be prescribed to treat the flu. These drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the duration. OTC pain relievers, cough suppressants, and decongestants can alleviate symptoms.

Home Remedies:

Cold & Flu:

  1. Hydration: Drinking water, herbal teas, or broths can help in hydration and alleviating symptoms.
  2. Rest: Your body heals faster when it’s rested.
  3. Warm Salt Gargle: Helps soothe a sore throat.
  4. Steam: Breathing in steam from a shower or using a humidifier can help with congestion.
  5. Honey and Lemon: A combination of honey and lemon in warm water can relieve cough and soothe the throat.
  6. Ginger Tea: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger tea can be helpful.
  7. Chicken Soup: It’s not just comfort food. Chicken soup can provide the body with essential nutrients and ease symptoms.

Prevention Tips:

  1. Hand Hygiene: Regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential. Use hand sanitizers when soap isn’t available.
  2. Avoid Close Contact: Keep a safe distance from individuals who are sick to prevent the spread of germs.
  3. Vaccination: Annual flu vaccination is recommended for most individuals, especially those in high-risk groups.
  4. Maintain Good Health Habits: Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress can bolster your immune system.
  5. Avoid Touching Face: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands as this is a common way germs enter our body.

Note: Always consult a healthcare professional when symptoms are severe or persistent. Home remedies are meant to complement medical treatments and not replace them.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Differences between Cold and Flu. Available online
  2. Mayo Clinic. Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt. Available online
  3. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Cold, Flu, or Allergy? Available online