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Difference Between Colds and Influenza

Colds vs. Influenza

During cold seasons, respiratory illnesses and related diseases are more than ever rampant. Everyone is particularly vulnerable to these kinds of conditions especially the young and the old individuals. A respiratory illness is any condition that affects the airway or respiratory system caused by different factors. A respiratory illness may then proceed to systemic complications affecting other parts of the body outside the respiratory system. Respiratory illnesses may be caused by various types of causative agents. It can either be viral, bacterial, or even allergic reactions. Two of the most common respiratory ailments since time immemorial are colds and influenza or flu. Many become confused with these two conditions and sometimes use the terms interchangeably. However, an in-depth study reveals each  condition possesses a different set of characteristics that differentiates one from the other.

To start with, a cold is exclusively affecting the respiratory system while influenza is systemic or affects the whole body. Additionally, colds and influenza are individually caused by different kinds of pathogens. In terms of attack, a cold has a gradual onset while influenza has an immediate appearance with sudden signs and symptoms. As sudden as the symptoms may be, influenza may  gradually diminish in a few days’ time, however, and it may run for two weeks or so to complete its course. On the other hand, cold symptoms can be manifested in a week, and the first three days are usually contagious. Bacterial infection may be the culprit for cold symptoms that last for more than a week; thus, treatment should include antibiotics.

Aside from the duration of the full course of these two illnesses, the majority of the differences between the two lie in the symptoms manifested.  Though most of the symptoms are quite similar, observable differences are then noted. Influenza may include a high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In most cases, while a temperature of 100°F or higher for three to four days is typically present with the flu, fever is unusual with a cold. In colds, a cough is often hacking and productive while a non-productive or dry cough is evident in influenza. A stuffy nose is common in a cold unlike in influenza. More than half of the people with influenza experience chills unlike in colds. There is minimal tiredness for a cold while it ranges from moderate to severe for influenza. Common to colds is also sneezing unlike in influenza. Most of influenza cases suffer from a headache which is quite uncommon for colds. Aside from that, a  sore throat is commonly experienced in colds while it is not in influenza.

Since flu is the one with the longer course of illness, it is more prone to develop into further complications if not treated promptly. It can lead to pneumonia or other serious health problems.Citing the differences between the two can be very helpful to avoid confusion and misuse of terms. More importantly, the most fundamental thing that is similar to both illnesses is their mode of transmission. Knowing that these illnesses are transmitted through droplet and airborne contact, it is essential to practice proper etiquette and hygiene in order to prevent the spread of infection.

Summary:

1. A cold is exclusively affecting the respiratory system while influenza is systemic or affects the whole body.
2. In terms of attack, a cold has a gradual onset while influenza has an immediate appearance with sudden signs and symptoms.
3. While a temperature of 100°F or higher for three to four days is typically present with the flu, fever is unusual with a cold.
4. In colds, a cough is often hacking and a productive cough while a non-productive or dry cough is evident in influenza.
5. A stuffy nose is common in colds unlike in influenza.
6. More than half of the people with influenza experience chills unlike in colds.
7. There is minimal tiredness for a cold while it ranges from moderate to severe for influenza.
8. Common to colds is also sneezing unlike in influenza.
9. Most influenza cases suffer from a headache which is quite uncommon for colds.
10. A sore throat is commonly experienced in colds unlike influenza.11. Since the flu is the one with a longer course of illness, it is more prone to develop into further complications if not treated promptly.


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