Cold or Flu? What’s the Difference?

Articles
May 07, 2009

Cold or Flu? What’s the Difference?

There are many frequently used terms that are often misused or misunderstood on a daily basis. This is certainly not ideal, considering the planet is in the midst of yet another pandemic flu virus. Supermarket Guru is here to define and clear up some of the confusion over some important flu related terms. Cold vs. Flu Let’s start by setting the record straight on the difference between the common cold and flu. Both are considered respiratory illnesses and are caused by two totally different viruses. It is hard to decipher between the two based on symptoms alone. Special tests can be conducted and are often necessary if you fall into certain high-risk groups.* In general the flu virus presents more intense and severe symptoms which often include, body aches, tiredness, dry coughs and fever. Cold The common cold is an illness caused by a viral infection located in the nasal passages, which can also include the sinus passages connecting the ears, throat and bronchial tubes. Common cold symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose and a sore or scratchy throat. General fatigue, headache, fever and chills are also common. Depending on the cold strain and the immune and nutritional status of their host, a cold can last anywhere from two days to two weeks. The cold virus is spread by sharing contaminated objects such as kitchen utensils or glasses as well as coming into contact with a person infected with the cold virus. The best way to prevent the common cold is to make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often! To lessen the discomfort of a cold; antihistamines, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), decongestants and cough suppressants are often advised. Influenza aka The Flu The flu is considered an acute viral infection that is caused by one of three general flu strains: A, B and C. The virus is easily passed from person to person and is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, cough, extreme fatigue, muscle and or joint pain, sore throat and runny nose. The majority of those who fall ill with the flu will recover within a week and not require medical attention. Flu vaccines are available and are an effective means of preventing 70-90% of influenza-specific illnesses in healthy adults (WHO). The flu virus not only presents more severe symptoms as compared with a cold, but is also thought to have more severe economic and public health ramifications. This includes having to stay home and rest, therefore lowering productivity in the workforce. Clinics and hospitals can become overwhelmed during peak illness periods. The flu virus is spread similarly to the cold and therefore avoiding those who are infected and frequent and thorough hand washing are the best ways of prevention as well as getting vaccinated. The treatments recommended for flu are similar to those of the cold and you should consult your physician about antiviral drugs if symptoms worsen...

There are many frequently used terms that are often misused or misunderstood on a daily basis. This is certainly not ideal, considering the planet is in the midst of yet another pandemic flu virus. Supermarket Guru is here to define and clear up some of the confusion over some important flu related terms.

Cold vs. Flu
Let’s start by setting the record straight on the difference between the common cold and flu. Both are considered respiratory illnesses and are caused by two totally different viruses. It is hard to decipher between the two based on symptoms alone. Special tests can be conducted and are often necessary if you fall into certain high-risk groups.* In general the flu virus presents more intense and severe symptoms which often include, body aches, tiredness, dry coughs and fever.

Cold
The common cold is an illness caused by a viral infection located in the nasal passages, which can also include the sinus passages connecting the ears, throat and bronchial tubes. Common cold symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose and a sore or scratchy throat. General fatigue, headache, fever and chills are also common. Depending on the cold strain and the immune and nutritional status of their host, a cold can last anywhere from two days to two weeks. The cold virus is spread by sharing contaminated objects such as kitchen utensils or glasses as well as coming into contact with a person infected with the cold virus. The best way to prevent the common cold is to make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often!
To lessen the discomfort of a cold; antihistamines, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), decongestants and cough suppressants are often advised.

Influenza aka The Flu
The flu is considered an acute viral infection that is caused by one of three general flu strains: A, B and C. The virus is easily passed from person to person and is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, cough, extreme fatigue, muscle and or joint pain, sore throat and runny nose. The majority of those who fall ill with the flu will recover within a week and not require medical attention. Flu vaccines are available and are an effective means of preventing 70-90% of influenza-specific illnesses in healthy adults (WHO). The flu virus not only presents more severe symptoms as compared with a cold, but is also thought to have more severe economic and public health ramifications. This includes having to stay home and rest, therefore lowering productivity in the workforce. Clinics and hospitals can become overwhelmed during peak illness periods. The flu virus is spread similarly to the cold and therefore avoiding those who are infected and frequent and thorough hand washing are the best ways of prevention as well as getting vaccinated. The treatments recommended for flu are similar to those of the cold and you should consult your physician about antiviral drugs if symptoms worsen.

And last but not least, let’s define and clarify the difference between Pandemic and Epidemic.

Epidemic
An epidemic describes the situation when the incidence rate of a disease far exceeds what is expected based on previous data or knowledge.
(Incidence rate is defined by the number of new cases of a disease during a certain period of time.)

Pandemic
According to the WHO, there are three conditions that define a pandemic. 1. A disease among animals which is known to cause infection in humans, 2. The agents of disease are found to cause significant illness in humans, and 3. The agents of disease are highly infectious and sustainable among humans. A pandemic disease agent is not restricted by location, often occurring over a wide geographic area affecting a high proportion of the population.
A pandemic in short, is a wide spread epidemic, and keep in mind that it has no connection to the actual severity of the illness.

The terms epidemic and pandemic are epidemiologic terms used to define and describe the progression of a disease. They are useful in the health care sector to alert and direct the proper response for treatment and control of the specified infectious agent.

Quick tips to keep in mind
Prevention is key with any virus and it is better to be safe than sorry and sick!
If possible avoid those that are infected with a cold or flu virus. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and often with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Try to keep your hands away from your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth when you have been out in public places- these are direct channels for viral agents to enter! Increase your vitamin C intake, through the consumption of more fruits and vegetables. Some great natural sources include papaya, red bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberries, oranges and cantaloupe (this will keep you healthy and feeling good regardless!).
And don’t forget, as our friends at The National Pork Board have reminded us, it is absolutely safe to eat pork!

*according to the WHO individuals considered at highest-risk include: elderly, disabled, nursing home residents, and people with chronic medical conditions.