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The common cold and flu are two prevalent respiratory illnesses that can affect anyone, especially during colder months. While they share some similarities, they are caused by different viruses and have distinct characteristics.

What is the Common Cold?

A common cold is typically a minor viral infection. This affects the throat and nose. The first symptom begins as a sore throat, then it’s followed by sneezing, followed by a runny or stuffy nose. As the infection progresses, you may experience coughing, mild fatigue, and low-grade fever. Symptoms usually peak within 2-3 days and subside within a week.

The cold virus is highly contagious. Eventually, it is passed on when an infected person spreads respiratory droplets in their surroundings, like when they sneeze, talk, or cough.

What is the Flu?

The flu, short for influenza, is a more severe respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Its symptoms are similar to the common cold but tend to be more intense. They include sudden onset of high fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, headache, dry cough, and a sore throat. Sometimes, the flu can become pneumonia or a more serious illness.

It is also highly contagious and can be transmitted before symptoms appear and up to a week after becoming sick.

The Key Differences

One of the main differences between the common cold and the flu is the speed of onset and severity of symptoms. The flu usually strikes suddenly and severely, causing more intense symptoms. At the same time, the common cold tends to develop gradually and is milder.

While both illnesses may cause fever, it is more common and tends to be higher with the flu. Rarely, the common cold may lead to a mild fever, but it is not a predominant symptom as it is with the flu.

What’s the Remedy?

Treating the common cold involves managing its symptoms. This is essential to relieve and support your body in fighting the virus. Over-the-counter cold medications can help relieve congestion and ease symptoms. Rest, staying hydrated, and gargling with salt water for a sore throat can also provide relief.

Antiviral medications may be prescribed for the flu to eliminate the symptoms gradually. Resting, staying hydrated, and using fever-reducing drugs can help manage flu symptoms. You must find a healthcare professional ASAP if you develop severe symptoms or belong to a high-risk group.