What are the Differences Between Colds and Flu? Symptoms of the Common Cold and the Influenza Virus

Colds and flu are contagious viruses that are transmitted from person to person. Symptoms of the common cold and influenza are similar, but flu symptoms are more severe.

The terms ‘cold’ and ‘flu’ are often used interchangeably, but they are different illnesses resulting from different viruses. A virus which leads to a cold will cause a person to feel unwell, but still able to get on with most day-to-day activities. The flu virus is more debilitating than the common cold, and genuine flu sufferers will find it difficult to do anything except lie down and rest.

What are Colds and Flu?

Once a cold or flu virus enters the body, it attacks the body’s cells and reproduces rapidly, spreading in just a few hours. Cold and flu viruses affect the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, sinuses, trachea, larynx and bronchial tubes), and symptoms of colds and flu are caused by the immune system’s reaction to the invasion of such viruses.

Colds and flu are self-limiting infections, meaning that they go away on their own. Taking lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and using over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and cough remedies, usually manage the symptoms of colds and flu.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

The common cold is so called simply because it is a very common infection among humans, with adults and children usually suffering from several colds each year. It is thought that more than 200 different cold viruses are responsible for causing colds. Symptoms of colds include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Blocked nose
  • Blocked ears
  • Earache
  • Tiredness
  • Mild temperature
  • Feeling shivery

Symptoms of a cold will usually develop within one to two days of contracting the virus, and will be at their worst within three days. After that, symptoms will begin to ease, and will take a week or two to completely disappear.

Symptoms of the Flu Virus

Contrary to popular belief, the flu is not the same as a very bad cold. Flu is caused by three different influenza viruses of which there are different strains. Flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, but are more severe and appear more quickly. Other symptoms of flu include:

  • Notably higher fever
  • Sweating
  • Exhaustion
  • Aching muscles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Flu symptoms usually appear within a few hours of a person coming into contact with the flu virus. As with a cold, flu sufferers will usually start to feel better within a week, but tiredness may linger for some time.

Some people are at risk of serious secondary infections such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia if they contract the flu virus, and a flu vaccination may be recommended. At risk groups include people aged over 65, and those with:

  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Asthma
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cardiovascular disease

The common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses, with symptoms of the flu presenting more quickly and with more severity than those of a cold. However, as both illnesses share many of the same symptoms, distinguishing between a severe cold and the flu can sometimes be difficult.

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The Symptoms and Treatment of Valley Fever: A Serious Fungal Infection with Common Symptoms

Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed because of the common cold symptoms it produces. If left untreated death can occur.

In the dry deserts of the world an often undiagnosed medical condition spreads through the wind infecting a wide range of unsuspecting people. This disease that can travel with the wind is called Valley Fever. This disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. This fungus can thrive in warm, dry environments like the deserts of Mexico and Arizona. The fungal infection is spread into the air when the soil is disturbed like in a dust storm. Because of this, people with digging jobs and contractors are often diagnosed with this condition. Once the fungus is in the air it is inhaled into the lungs resulting in Valley Fever.

The Risks

Although Valley Fever can affect anyone, many factors can increase a person’s risk for becoming infected with this disease. People with weak immune systems are likely to be infected, especially those that suffer from HIV/AIDS. Pregnant women and diabetics have an increased risk to Valley Fever.

Ethnicity has shown to increase a person’s risk for Valley Fever. Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and African Americans have shown to have a higher chance of getting Valley Fever than others. Filipinos are also known to frequently have this infection.

Environmental factors can increase a person’s risk for Valley Fever as well. The hot deserts, like those in the Southwestern United States, have high reports of this infection. Windy environments can increase a person’s risk. Construction workers, farmers, and other outside labor jobs increase the risk of contracting this disease.

The Symptoms

Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms associated with it are so common to colds and flu. Although Valley Fever has cold-like symptoms it is not contagious from person to person. Symptoms usually occur after the incubation period which lasts about one to three weeks. The symptoms of this disease are fevers, dry coughs, and chest pains. A person with this disease can also experience joint pain, fatigue, and headaches. Rarely, a rash or red bumps will be visible on the body. Because these symptoms are so similar to other illnesses Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed and untreated. It is then able to spread to other areas of the body.

Treatment

If Valley Fever is left untreated it can begin to infect other areas of the body. It can spread to the lymph nodes, other organs, bones, and skin. If it is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, the coverings of the brain and spinal cord can become infected.

Valley Fever can easily be diagnosed by a doctor. The doctor will ask a series of questions involving recent travel, environment conditions, and work history. Chest x-rays are used to diagnose this condition as well as blood tests. Anti-fungal medications are used to kill the infection. Frequent check ups and testing are needed to check to make sure the infection doesn’t reoccur.