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Posted on 1. March 2018

Cold vs. Flu

By Abbie Cornett

Finally, there is some good news about this year’s flu season. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced there are fewer reports from physicians about patients seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms, with the number declining from 7.4 percent for the week ending Feb. 10 to 6.4 percent for the week ending Feb. 17.1

Yet, having flu-like symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the flu. It’s possible that rather than the flu, it may be the flu’s baby brother: a cold virus.

Understanding the difference between the two is particularly important for people who have an immune deficiency or a chronic illness that results in a suppressed immune system. People who suffer from these types of diseases are more susceptible to experiencing serious complications resulting from the flu. Complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.

Both the flu and a cold are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. But, because the illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. A cold usually presents with less-severe symptoms than the flu and has a shorter duration. Further, a cold is a viral infection that affects the upper-respiratory system, while the flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus that affects the entire respiratory system.

CDC has a helpful chart showing the difference in symptoms between the two.


Regardless of whether it is the flu or a cold, it is important to seek medical attention, especially those at risk of suffering complications. Those at risk include young children, people over age 65, pregnant women, people with asthma and those with medical conditions that affect their ability to fight infection.

1 The First Good News of This Year’s Terrible Flu Season! MSN News.
Accessed Feb. 23, 2018 at www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/the-first-good-news-of-this-year%e2%80%99s-terrible-flu-season/ar-BBJvpdQ.

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