People commonly use the terms cold and influenza (flu) interchangeably and think they are synonymous.

However, although both are caused by viruses infecting your airways, there are drastic differences between the two. Here’s an outline of the top three differences between a cold and a flu:

1). Gradual development versus abrupt

A major difference between the two illnesses is the speed of onset. With a cold, onset is quite gradual, and you can feel it coming for days, even weeks. However, the flu hits both suddenly and intensely, causing you to feel ill in a matter of hours.

According to home doctor experts at House Call Doctor, cold symptoms last for a shorter period of time with symptoms gone after a few days or up to a week, whereas flu symptoms tend to last much longer.

2). Strong symptoms

The difference in symptoms between a cold and a flu are also quite stark. Symptoms of a cold tend to be low-risk and mild with no major discomfort after the first day or two. However, flu symptoms are highly intense and can affect you for a prolonged time.

Cold symptoms include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Cough

Flu symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

3). Serious complications

According to our house call home doctors, the key difference between a cold and a flu is the variation in long-term intensity between the two.

With the flu, there is the significant risk of health complications such as pneumonia or bacterial infections which can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

Patients can take weeks to recover from a flu, sometimes longer, if complications persist. With a cold however, there are very minimal risks of developing complications and recovery times are much faster.

Dorothy Latch

The author Dorothy Latch