Cold or Flu: Which One Do You Have?!

AD| The common cold is, well, one of the most common illnesses in the world! People get it all-year-round, but it mostly comes to bite us during winter. The worst thing about the cold is that there's no cure for it and it keeps adapting. This is why nobody is immune to it, and also why you might get multiple colds in a year. 

However, another illness often gets mentioned in the same breath as a cold: the flu. You see the two paired together all the time, but what's the difference between them? How do you know if you have a cold or the flu?

cold and flu illness

The flu is considerably worse

Firstly, you'll know if you have the flu because it is considerably worse than a cold. While you might get a cold a few times a year, they may only put you out of action for a day or two. Bad colds can last longer, but you tend to recover very quickly. The main symptoms are a blocked nose, cough, sore throat, and general tiredness. They can also be treated quite easily - ginger is very effective at killing the cold virus, which is why it doesn’t last that long.

In contrast, the flu will floor you for at least a week. It has many of the same symptoms as a cold, but it's a lot stronger. You won't feel better for a good few days, and the symptoms will linger on well into a second week. The flu virus is highly contagious, which is why your best method of treatment is to stay at home and recover. You might be able to get some flu treatment from a doctor, but it depends on how severe your symptoms are. 

The flu causes intense muscle aches

I lived my whole life without having the flu, until about three years ago. To be honest, I assumed that the flu and a cold were pretty similar. In fact, I may have even told people I had the flu a few times. But, it's not until you actually suffer from it that you realise the stark contrast in the two illnesses. 

The biggest difference is that the flu causes intense muscle aches. This doesn't mean your muscles feel a bit sore and weak - it means they properly hurt. I had a severe pain in my back that felt like a really tight muscle knot. The same sort of thing happens in other areas of the body - it's like the day after an intense workout! For me, this is one of the tell-tale symptoms that help you differentiate between the two diseases. If you have cold symptoms and some serious muscle aches, you probably have the flu. 

cold and flu illness coronavirus

The flu gives you a fever

Another common difference is that cold will very rarely give you a fever. Generally, you just feel a bit run down and tired. This comes with the usual congestion issues, but your temperature isn't too hot. Weirdly, one of the treatments for a cold is to induce a fever at night. Some people suggest that wearing wet socks triggers a fever, which sets your immune system to peak efficiency. The idea is that the fever drives out the cold. 

Anyway, the flu will give you a fever as one of the main symptoms. Again, this is an easy way to determine if you have a cold or the flu. Check your temperature, and if you keep sweating through your covers, you probably have the flu. 

The flu can make you nauseous

Colds tend to be quite a sinus problem. What I mean is that most of the symptoms affect your nose and throat. In turn, this often creates the feeling of your head being in a bubble. When your sinuses are infected or damaged, it does make you feel tired and ill. However, the flu makes you feel all sorts of other ailments as it's more of a total body disease. 

Nausea is a common flu symptom, but it's rarely seen when you have a cold. Generally, your eating habits aren't affected when you've got the common cold. You still have the urge to eat, it's just frustrating as you can't taste anything. By contrast, the flu can upset your appetite and make you go off food for a few days. As a result, you're left eating crackers and plain rice until your appetite returns. Thus, if you feel sick and have no inclination to eat anything, the chances are you have a cold. 

Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the differences between a cold and the flu. The flu is definitely a bigger concern, which is why there's a vaccine for it. Keep a look out for some of the defining symptoms that let you know if you have a cold or the flu!

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