A common cold, including chest cold and head cold, can be caused by more than 200 viruses, seasonal flu is caused by either influenza A or B viruses.
Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Colds usually begin abruptly with a sore throat followed by clear, watery nasal drainage, sneezing, fatigue, and a cough.
Usually, there is no fever with the common cold. In fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu or a bacterial infection and not a cold.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu in comparison are a fever over 100 F (38 C), aching muscles, chills and sweats, a headache, a dry cough, and fatigue to name a few.
Everyone is at risk for getting a cold. Specific risks include the germs of other people, especially small children, college residence halls, public transportation, fitness facilities, etc.
Influenza risk factors include age, your occupation (those exposed to the public), living conditions, poor immune system, pregnancy, and chronic illness.
Your best protection from the common cold and flu is frequent hand washing. Amazingly, about 80% of contagious diseases are transmitted by touch. But the simple friction that occurs when you rub skin against skin while using warm water and soap followed by thorough rinsing and drying can get rid of potentially harmful germs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends annual flu vaccination for all Americans over the age of 6 months. Each year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection from the three influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during that year’s flu season. The vaccine is typically available as an injection or as a nasal spray.
It’s hard to find good relief for a cold. Before you select a cold medicine, learn more about the available treatment options — what works and what doesn’t — so you can effectively treat your cold symptoms. Common cold treatments include decongestants and antihistamines, nasal sprays, cough medicine and cough syrups.
Bed rest and plenty of fluids are common natural flu treatments. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mayo Clinic: Influenza