Colds and Flu Types
Is it the cold or flu? Sneezing, coughing, fever, body aches, stomach distress are symptoms of a number of illnesses. How do you know the difference between the common cold and the flu?
Common Cold Symptoms
The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold. If symptoms exceed comfort levels, it is time to see a doctor. (Mayo Clinic 2019)
Flu Symptoms are much like common cold symptoms. It is often hard to tell the difference. Each symptom is cause for concern as the flu often results in life-threatening complications.
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. (CDC 2019)
Cold Versus Flu
|Signs and Symptoms||Cold||Flu|
|Fever||Rare||Usually Lasts 3-4 Days|
|Aches||Slight||Often; usually severe|
|Fatigue / Weakness||Sometimes||Usual|
|Chest discomfort / Cough||Mild to moderate – hacking cough||Common, can be severe|
Strains of the Cold
The common cold is a pervasive virus. In fact, it’s the main reason for children missing school and adults missing work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2019).
While there are more 200 virus strains that can contribute to the common cold, the most common are rhinoviruses. And although the rhinovirus is commonplace and well understood, there’s currently no cure for the common cold. (Gray 2018)
Strains of the Flu
There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease (known as the flu season) almost every winter in the United States. Influenza A viruses are the only Influenza viruses known to cause flu pandemics, i.e., global epidemics of flu disease. A pandemic can occur when a new and very different Influenza A virus emerges that both infects people and can spread efficiently between people. Influenza type C infections generally cause mild illness and are not thought to cause human flu epidemics. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people. (CDC 2019)
Currently circulating Influenza, A(H1N1) viruses are related to the pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus that emerged in the spring of 2009 and caused a flu pandemic (CDC 2009 H1N1 Flu website). This virus, scientifically called the “A(H1N1) pdm09 virus,” and more generally called “2009 H1N1,” has continued to circulate seasonally since then. These H1N1 viruses have undergone relatively small genetic changes and changes to their antigenic properties (i.e., the properties of the virus that affect immunity) over time. (CDC 2019)
What Should We Do to Protect Our Family from the Flu?
High functioning, busy families are shut down when illness strikes the household. Families eat together, share common facilities and come in close contact with each other. Unfortunately, this close contact creates a breeding ground for cross contamination. When one family member gets sick, inevitably, the others follow suit. It’s even more devastating when a parent gets sick first.
What to Do When Illness Strikes
There is not a complete solution to preventing flu within a household, but there are things that can be done to minimize the risk. If your family has been vaccinated for the flu, there is still a chance that the flu virus will strike. The flu is highly contagious. The first thing to do is get immediate diagnosis. The flu symptoms chart gives clues to how the flu will present. If your family member is in the high-risk group of infants, elderly and those with compromised immune systems, don’t wait.
When Flu Vaccines Fail, We Don’t
As caring community medical professionals, we always hope for the best outcome when it comes to diagnosing and treating illness. Because science has not produced a 100% effective Influenza vaccine, we need to be conscious of the complications of the virus. What seems like a cold can turn into something more threatening to your loved one’s overall health. Beaumont Emergency Hospital is open 24/7 365 and can diagnose and treat the flu without waiting hours in a big box Emergency Room. Our doctors are standing by to test and evaluate each patient based on individual symptoms and needs. We are here for you and your family and we promise the best possible emergency care. We’ll follow up and make sure your family physician has records needed to continue care if needed. We’ll stop the flu in its tracts and get you back to optimal health in no time.
“Common Cold.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Apr. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605.
“Flu Symptoms & Complications.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Sept. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm.
“2009 H1N1 Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.
Gray, Dan. “Common Cold: Two at Once.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 28 Sept. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/you-can-have-two-colds-at-the-same-time#1.
“Types of Influenza Viruses.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Nov. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm.