The Flu is different from the Common Cold and they are managed differently


Education is the most effective safeguard against physical and mental ill-health.

Sathya Sai Baba, August 28, 1976 discourse delivered at Brindavan

Both the Common Cold and the Flu have very similar symptoms, so it is important to be able to distinguish between the two, because the Flu can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia that may require hospitalization.

The common cold can be caused by over 200 viruses 1, while the flu is caused by the influenza virus, which has several strains. Many of the symptoms for both illnesses overlap. The common cold usually presents more gradually and has milder symptoms related mainly to the nose and throat. The flu usually presents more abruptly, has more severe symptoms that also involve areas outside of the nose and throat, including headaches, body aches, fevers, chills, and severe fatigue. Prevention (see the previous article in Healthy Living Section, “The Common Cold and Stress”) and immunization are the best methods for protection against the flu.

The Flu is different from the Common Cold

All individuals over 6 months of age should get the influenza vaccine, particularly certain populations who are at high risk for developing serious complications 2,3:

  • Age over 65
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetics
  • Cancer patients
  • Asthmatics
  • Those with weak immune systems

Because the flu virus spreads in a predictable pattern throughout the world, it often presents at a certain time (season) of the year. Therefore, during flu season, a heightened awareness should be present to be on the lookout for flu symptoms. Special tests can be done to confirm whether one has the flu, and while there is no cure, antiviral medications can be prescribed to try and shorten symptoms. Outside of the above-mentioned vulnerable populations and those with serious progressive symptoms, most people with the flu do not need medical care or antiviral medications. It is important not to spread the virus. Frequent hand washing, wearing a facemask or covering coughs and sneezes will decrease the spread of Flu virus. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the SSIO. This article is for your information only. No advice is given or intended by these articles.  Any changes to your life that may possibly affect your health should be done only after consultation with your physician.


1. Canadian Family Physician; Common Cold

2. Annals of Internal Medicine; Influenza

3. Infectious Disease Clinics North America; Updates on Influenza vaccination in children