How do you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Published on 27/12/2017

How do you tell the difference between a cold and the flu


In the event of an established influenza-like illness, the course of action is case-by-case and includes individual measures to limit the spread of the disease, combined with individualized treatment.

In its classic benign form, the flu only requires symptomatic treatment: first of all rest and good hydration with a treatment adapted to the symptoms encountered.

In case of chronic pathologies such as diabetes or heart failure for example, an adaptation of the background treatment may be necessary, in particular the prescription of antivirals (which are effective if prescribed in the first 48 hours of the beginning of clinical signs).

The treatment is defined by the doctor.

Flu vs cold


Simple measures can reduce the risk of transmission of the influenza virus. Basic notions of hygiene appear to be essential, especially hand washing. Cleaning can be done either with soap and water or with a hydro-alcoholic solution by rubbing for 20 to 30 seconds for a more effective cleaning.

The primary means of preventing influenza is vaccination. The World Health Organization recommends annual vaccination for – in order of priority – :

    • Pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancies,
    • Children from 6 months to 5 years old,
    • Elderly (≥ 65 years),
    • Subjects with chronic conditions,
    • Health workers.

Medical consultation is therefore essential for any influenza-like illness, especially for certain more alarming signs:

    • Belonging to a higher risk group (listed above),
    • Intense symptoms such as a sore throat that lasts more than 2 days, with a very swollen throat, a runny nose for more than 10 days with colored secretions, a facial pain or an intense headache, a cough that persists for more than a week with mucus production,
    • A high fever (above 38.5°C or recurring 4 to 14 days later,
    • Difficulty breathing.

It is strongly recommended to seek medical advice. Only the latter can establish an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

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