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What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

Common cold symptoms

Runny or stuffy nose

  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever

The common cold is a viral infection, which means that there is little you can do to cure it, but there are plenty of options for soothing the symptoms. Antibiotics won't work as they target bacterial infections and not viruses. Home treatment for the common cold includes getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids. In older children and adults, over-the-counter medications such as throat lozenges, throat sprays, cough drops, and cough syrups may help relieve symptoms, though they will not prevent or shorten the duration of the common cold. Gargling with warm saltwater may help those with a sore throat. A nasal spray, such as Stérimar, may be used for nasal symptom. Nasal drops and bulb suctioning may be used to clear nasal mucus in infants.

Common flu symptoms

  • A 37C/100F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

The flu is extremely contagious and a lot more serious than the common cold, especially in those with compromised immune systems. Fever and fatigue do tend to go hand in hand with the flu, so it is important to keep an eye on your child’s temperature, in case they get a fever. Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms. The flu treatment you should take depends on your symptoms. For example, if you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can be helpful. If you have a runny nose, or itchy, watery eyes, then an antihistamine may be helpful for your flu symptoms. Antihistamines block the effect of "histamine," and help relieve such annoying symptoms as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge. If you need immediate relief for swollen, congested nasal passages, you can get relief with an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray, like Stérimar.

As always, the information contained on eumom.ie is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.

About the Author

Editor of eumom.ie, Mairéad Cahalan is a creator of content, a lover of music, red wine and coffee, and a part-time wedding singer! Find her on Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud and LinkedIn.

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