Difference Between Cold and Flu

Cold vs Flu

Cold FluThe common symptoms of cold and flu lead to the confusion among these two terms and sometimes flu is neglected mistaking it as a common cold. Both are viral infections, but flu can be epidemic and pandemic with the potential for mortality.

Cold and flu are usually associated with winter season, and have many symptoms in common.  These common signs lead to confusion and the both terms are interchangeable used, or flu is consider as the sever form of cold. A person using inadequate clothing in winter season, and eating more ice cream and cold drinks is more likely to catch by cold and flu. Some people have allergies, which are expressed as cold and flu.


Virus, usually rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, cause cold or common cold making it the most frequent infectious disease. Symptoms of common cold are runny nose, sore throat, cough and in some cases mild fever. It usually lasts for seven to ten days but in some cases, it can prolong to three weeks. It is a self-limiting disease and body’s immune system respond to the attack by producing antibodies, which stop the infection, so the symptoms automatically vanish within 10 days.  Cold affects the upper respiratory tract in humans. There is no known treatment for cold; the medication in cold affects the fever and cough but not the cold itself. We can avoid this infection by avoiding the infected person as he releases the cold virus in the air by sneezing and coughing and this virus can attack the healthy person.


Flu is the word, commonly used for Influenza, which is an infectious disease, caused by the viruses of Orthomyxoviridae family. Common symptoms of flu include fever, chills, sore throat, headache and cough. Pneumonia is the sever form of flu, which can be fatal. Flu virus is classified into three categories, Influenza Virus A,B and C. The disease spreads, from the direct contact with an infected person or infected surface, air can also act as medium for spreading this virus. Vaccination is available against influenza and is highly recommended for children and elderly. In flu infection, the complete respiratory tract is infected, including lungs.

Differences and similarities

Generally, terms of cold and flu are used interchangeably, as they have many common symptoms like cough, fever, sneezing and runny nose but they are two different diseases. Both are caused by different strains of viruses. Although the mode of transmission is, more or less, same but flu is more serious disease. Cold is self-limiting infection and automatically disappears within a week, but this is not the case with flu. There is no actual treatment for cold, but you have to take medication for curing flu. As cold is not really injurious, so no vaccination is available to avoid this infection, on the other hand Vaccination for flu is often recommended. In cold only nose and throat are infected, but influenza is associated with the infection of complete respiratory system. In influenza patient experience sever chills and high fever along with fatigue but cold brings only mild fever.


Symptoms of cold and flu are similar and their mode of transmission also resembles, but yet they are two different diseases. Cold being the less infectious and self-limiting is not taken very seriously, where as flu, associated with the complete respiratory tract can be fatal in it’s sever forms.