Demystifying the similarities and differences between these two common illnesses.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has infected massive numbers of people all over the world. While it can cause severe illness in certain groups, other strains of coronavirus have been with us for years and cause milder symptoms, such as those typical of the common cold.
As the cold and influenza (commonly referred to as flu) — which is also caused by a virus — share some similarities, it can be difficult to tell them apart. Ask yourself the following questions — the answers can help you make a diagnosis.I have a runny nose. Do I have a cold or the flu?
It’s most likely a cold. Runny nose and congestion tend to be associated more with colds rather than flus, although they can occur when you have the flu. Colds and flus have common symptoms, and both are caused by different viruses that infect the upper respiratory airway. However, colds tend to have milder symptoms while flus are usually accompanied by sore throat, fever and body aches, and can develop into more serious conditions, such as pneumonia.
My body is aching and I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Is it the flu?
Very likely. Feeling extremely tired with moderate to severe body aches is a common symptom of the flu. The best thing to do if you are afflicted is to get enough rest. Apart from that, you may want to get some medication from your GP to relieve your body aches.
A cold lasts shorter than the flu: true or false?
That is true. Symptoms of a cold, such as runny nose and sore throat, tend to resolve themselves within seven to 10 days, whereas flu symptoms — tiredness, body aches, fever and chill — can persist for weeks.
Vomiting is more likely with the flu than a cold: true or false?
That is true. Vomiting is not normally associated with a cold, but can occur when you are stricken with the flu.
Should I address my cold or flu by taking antibiotics?
No, you shouldn’t. As colds and flus are caused by viruses, antibiotics are practically useless against them. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Instead, drink plenty of fluids and allow your immune system to fight the viral infection. However, if your symptoms worsen, see a doctor right away.
I’m not sure what illness I have. Should I increase my fluid intake?
Yes, you should. Fluids are helpful whether you have the flu or a cold. In both instances, they break up congestion and thin the mucus; so drink as much water, herbal tea and soup as you need.
Preventing the cold and flu
Here are some steps you should take to stay well:
- Frequently clean hands — use soap and water or hand disinfectants/sanitisers
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay well hydrated
- Seek medical attention promptly when not feeling well, especially during this period