Child, Children's diseases

Flu or cold: these are the distinguishing features

Flu or cold: these are the distinguishing features

What do you mean by flu or cold?

The terms flu or common cold are often used as synonyms, as both conditions point to similar symptoms. In both cases, it is about the disease of the respiratory tract. However, there are some distinguishing features between the flu or the common cold. In the case of a cold, it is also referred to as a flu-like infection. In the case of flu, on the other hand, the term influenza is also used.

Flu or cold: what are the symptoms and differences?

At first glance, the typical symptoms of flu or cold are similar.

  • malaise
  • increased temperature
  • aching limbs

At second glance, however, there are some differences.

  • Level of fever
  • Course of disease

Detection signs: Are you suffering from the flu or cold?

Flu (Influenza)

The symptoms of influenza appear suddenly and you get a fever within a few hours. This usually sets in quickly. At the beginning, you often suffer from a fever of over 39 degrees.

In addition, a painful, dry cough usually occurs. During the flu, you may get a severe headache. In addition, you will suffer from severe muscle and limb pain. You will quickly feel tired and debilitated during influenza.

Rather rare and less pronounced features in the flu are rhinitis and a stuffy nose. Also, a sore throat is unlikely.

Common cold (flu-like infection)

The symptoms of the common cold usually begin rather gradually and may last for several days. You normally have an elevated temperature of up to 38 degrees Celsius.

At the beginning of the cold, you often have a sore throat and a dry, irritating cough. This may last until the end of your cold. In the meantime, a phlegmy cough is possible.

You will usually be weak during the flu infection.

Another typical symptom of the flu infection is a cold and a stuffy nose. Sometimes you may also get a moderately severe headache. Limb pain is possible, but usually less severe.

Duration and course of the flu or cold.

The duration of the flu and the common cold progress over a different period of time.


Flu usually runs its course for seven to 14 days. However, it may take several weeks to fully recover.

Influenza often takes a severe course. The body and circulatory system are sometimes severely stressed.

Common cold

The common cold is usually overcome after seven to nine days.

The typical symptoms of a flu-like infection are usually less severe.

Which pathogens are behind it?


Influenza is caused by influenza viruses. Chronically ill or elderly patients are at risk.

The flu, also known as influenza, can cause serious, possibly life-threatening secondary diseases. For example, pneumonia or inflammation of the heart muscle can occur.

Common cold

The symptoms of a cold or flu-like infection with a cold, headache and aching limbs can be very annoying for you, but they are usually harmless.

Various cold viruses can be behind an influenza infection. There are up to 200 different types of viruses.

Rhinoviruses play a particularly frequent role in a cold.

Flu or cold: When should you see a doctor?

If you recognize any of the characteristics described above, you should consult a doctor if you suspect you have a real flu.

In addition, you should urgently see a doctor if you have underlying diseases such as diabetes mellitus or asthma.

In case of doubt, the doctor can prescribe a suitable medication for the symptoms of the flu.

Please do not hesitate to see a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • symptoms of the cold last for several days or become stronger
  • high fever (over 39 degrees Celsius) occurs quickly
  • difficult breathing
  • development of unusual or very strong symptoms

What helps against your cold symptoms?

There is no treatment for cold viruses yet. Rarely, the doctor prescribes antibiotics, because these only help against the bacteria and not against the viruses.

The goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms and strengthen your body’s self-healing powers.

It makes sense that the doctor prescribes medications that work against several complaints at the same time.

Various combination medications can relieve your pain, reduce fever and at the same time relieve congestion in the nose and sinuses.

In a short time you can feel relief from your discomfort. Medication is not always necessary for this purpose. The most important thing is that you drink enough, get fresh air, sleep a lot and rest. This will allow you to get on with your everyday life again.

Flu or cold: what you can do

Distinguishing between the flu or a cold can be useful, as the two illnesses vary in severity.

If you have the flu or a cold, you should take it easy. Sleeping a lot will support your immune system and give your body strength. Fresh air will do you good and stimulate your circulation. You should air your room regularly to keep your mucous membranes moist.

Make sure that you avoid stress and exertion during this time, so that you do not fall off the wagon.

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