Is it the flu or cold what I have? Differences, similarities and how to treat both

Posted by Xanit Internacional Xanit Internacional | Posted in Xanit salud | Posted on 07-01-2020


Breathing problems, phlegm, poor overall health… Flu and cold are very similar to the point that, on certain occasions, it is difficult to distinguish between the two pathologies.

Here at Vithas Xanit International Hospital,  we have prepared an article with some clues when in doubt if you are suffering from a common cold or flu and curiosities related to both, as well as general advice on treating them.


Differences: Yes, there are some…

It all starts with poor general health and a feeling of cold. Those first symptoms and the degree of virulence and intensity are already giving us a clue which out of two pathologies we are dealing with. The flu tends to be much worse than a cold and usually is followed by a fever that lasts for several days. Also, especially in children and the elderly, there is a greater risk of generating other health problems such as pneumonia.

The time of the year when the flu appears is also another clue. We can suffer from common cold almost at any time of the year. In contrast, the flu has limited its presence between the months of November and March.


Once identified, how can we treat it?

Treatment of influenza is fundamentally symptomatic, so it is recommended to drink a lot of liquids, take analgesics and antipyretics (ibuprofen or paracetamol). Acetylsalicylic acid is also a common resource, however, we try no to give it to children under 18 years of age to avoid Reye syndrome.

In both cases and in the light of the symptoms, you may use other drugs such as antihistamines, cough medicine, or nasal vasoconstrictors. On the contrary, we try not to prescribe antibiotics, since both flu and cold are produced by viral, non-bacterial infection.


Better to prevent…

We can pretty certainly say, that both influenza and the common cold are two of the most frequent diseases around. That is why a vaccination campaign to prevent influenza has been standardised, usually starting in October. There is no campaign to prevent the cold, as this is a more common ailment.

In the case of influenza, it is essential to call for vaccination within the main risk groups: people 65 years old or older, or people with diabetes mellitus, morbid obesity, kidney failure or liver disease, as well as healthcare or teaching personnel.


And how do the flu and cold spread?

The transmission is carried out through saliva, which we expel when sneezing, coughing or talking. In this regard, a greater degree of hands hygiene becomes important and, as far as possible, avoid contact with sick people.

As a fact to keep in mind in older people, influenza does not directly cause death, although it can lead to complications such as an aggravation of chronic respiratory diseases, pneumonia or specific diseases of the patient.