What is the difference between colds and flu?

What is the difference between colds and flu?

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Many people believe that the flu is a bad cold or stronger than usual. But in reality they are different viruses that cause the cold and the flu.

Of course, both types of viruses are spread in the same way, through millions of tiny droplets that an infected person drops when he talks, laughs, coughs or sneezes.

These droplets are dispersed up to a meter away and can remain suspended in the air before falling on a surface, where the virus can survive up to 24 hours , according to information from the British public health service, the NHS.

You can catch the flu or catarrh by touching an infected object and then bring your hands to your eyes or nose, allowing the virus to enter your body.

Although the symptoms of both diseases can be very similar. What is the difference between them?

Different viruses

There are three types of seasonal flu: A, B and C. Influenza viruses of type A are classified into subtypes according to the different combinations of two proteins on the surface of the virus (H and N).

All known pandemics have been caused by type A influenza viruses , according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Vaccines against seasonal influenza include strains relevant to the type of virus A and B, which are the cause of outbreaks and epidemics. Type C viruses, on the other hand, are detected much less frequently and tend to cause mild infections, so their impact on public health is less important.

There are many different viruses that can cause the cold, for which there is no vaccine, but rhinoviruses are the most common.

Common but different symptoms

Woman sneezing
Image captionColds tend to affect the upper respiratory tract more.

Both diseases share symptoms such as nasal congestion and runny nose, discomfort and sore throat, headache, coughing, sneezing, pressure in the ears and face, loss of taste and smell, fever, muscle aches and fatigue.

The colds tend to affect the upper respiratory tract more , that is, the nose and throat, according to Dr. Rob Hicks of the London Clinic The Randolph.

But in general the symptoms of seasonal flu, or influenza, tend to be more severe: it is more likely to generate fever, muscle aches and fatigue.

Slow symptoms in the face of sudden symptoms

Boy sneezing
Image captionThe symptoms of the flu come more suddenly than those of a cold.

A common cold develops gradually over a day or two and generates symptoms that are not very severe, according to Dr. Hicks.

At that earlier stage, when you have mucus and sore throat, it is when the virus is most contagious, according to the NHS.

In general after a couple of days you should feel better, although some colds can last up to a couple of weeks.

The flu, however, usually arrives much more suddenly than a cold . Symptoms appear one to three days after the infection occurs, according to the NHS.

In a matter of a week patients feel better, although they may feel fatigue for much longer.

The flu can become much more serious

With the cold, “you can usually keep doing things from everyday life,” Dr. Hicks describes. While with the flu, most people can not do anything other than lying in bed or on the couch.

In fact, the flu can become much more serious than the cold. According to the most recent figures of the World Health Organization every year up to 650,000 people die in the world of respiratory diseases associated with seasonal flu, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

That is why many governments recommend that the high-risk population be vaccinated annually to prevent complications.

People who are most at risk are those over 65 , pregnant women, children under 5, people with asthma or lung problems, heart, kidney or liver, diabetics, patients with a weakened immune system and health professionals or caregivers of vulnerable people.

The same remedies?

Little girl sneezing
Image caption It is better to sneeze on a disposable handkerchief than on your hands to avoid infection.

Both flu and catarrh are caused by viruses, so antibiotics do not work for these ailments .

To recover from both, “in an ideal world it would be best to stay home and rest, ” recommends Dr. Hicks, in addition to eating the necessary and drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Paracetamol, ibuprofen, decongestants and cough remedies can relieve symptoms, according to the doctor, both flu and cold.

But if you must go to the office and interact with people, the virologist John Oxford, of the Queen Mary Hospital of the University of London, recommends not sneezing or coughing on your hands but covering your mouth with your forearm or with tissues to minimize the spread of the virus.

In addition, washing hands regularly with soap and water and disinfecting commonly used surfaces such as the telephone and the door handles will help contain the contagion.

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