Life Wellbeing Flu 2018: The difference between a cold and the flu

Flu 2018: The difference between a cold and the flu

Cold symptoms happen more gradually whereas the flu comes on more abruptly.
Cold symptoms happen more gradually whereas the flu comes on more abruptly. Photo: Getty
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As the flu and cold season are drawing near, you are more than likely going to see these two respiratory viruses spreading amongst family, friends and colleagues.

This year, the flu season is unlikely to be as severe as 2017 which saw nearly 1100 deaths from influenza.

However, the Australian Government is still urging people aged from six months old to get the flu vaccination.

The European Centre for Disease and Prevention and Control says having the vaccination reduces the risk of getting the virus by 60 per cent.

However as the peak time approaches, many are left wondering whether they have the cold or the flu.

What’s the difference between the flu and a cold?

A cold is gradual and usually begins with a sore throat and develops into a runny nose and congestion a few days later.

It is most contagious in the first three days and usually lasts for about a week.

The flu is more severe and comes on abruptly. It can potentially cause pneumonia, and fatalities are not unusual.

Of the flu-related deaths in Australia last year, more than 90 per cent were people aged over 65.

The symptoms include a sore throat, fever, muscles aches, headache, congestion and a cough.

The flu can last for a couple of weeks so it is advised to be on bed rest.
The flu can last for a couple of weeks so it is advised to be on bed rest. Photo: Getty

Is it possible to have the flu and a cold at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to have both at the same time.

Deputy Director of the University of Canberra Health Research Institute Dr Reena Ghildyal said you can have both at the same because ‘they are caused by two different viruses.”

“The flu is caused by the influenza virus and a cold is caused by many different viruses like the rhinovirus,” Dr Ghildyal said. “You can have influenza infecting you but at the same time you might also have the rhinovirus in the nose.”

The rhinovirus is a viral infection that causes the common cold.

Does a flu shot protect you from catching the cold?

No, a flu shot does not protect you from a cold as the shot is “targeting the influenza virus”.

“The influenza vaccine is targeting the current strains of influenza however the virus changes all the time. It is really important to have the shot every year,” Dr Ghildyal said.

“We can’t predict exactly what will happen so if you have had the shot and feel like you have flu symptoms, visit your doctor.”

Does colder temperatures and getting wet affect your likelihood of contracting the viruses?

No, this is not true. Although it is more likely to get either infection in the colder months, “it is more to do with the way we behave,” Dr Ghildyal said.

“In the winter months, we are in closed areas more. This means there is a higher chance of transmitting the virus to other people.”