Common Cold vs. Flu: What's the difference?


You woke up at the morning, and found yourself having running nose, coughing and have that feverish feeling, how would you know if you are having just merely a common cold, or something more serious, a flu?


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Are they the same?
Are they the same?

Are common cold and flu the same?

Firstly, they are both contagious respiratory illnesses, however, they caused by different virus. Flu is caused by influenza viruses only.  Common cold can be caused by different types of viruses, including rhinoviruses, parainfluenza and seasonal coronavirus;  before jumping up, seasonal coronavirus is not the same as the virus that causes COVID-19.

Which is worse?
Which is worse?

Is common cold or flu more worse?

Generally speaking, flu is worse than the common cold, and the symptoms are much intense and can happen suddenly. However, people suffering from cold are more likely to have a runny nose and flu generally would have a higher chance to result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infection, or even seeing yourself being hospitalised.

What are the common cold symptoms?
What are the common cold symptoms?

Symptoms of common cold

You will start with a sore throat, this usually goes away after a day or two. Then follows the runny nose, and congestion along with a cough by around the fourth and fifth days.  Usually fever is uncommon in adults.  However, for children are more likely to catch a fever.

Nose symptoms usually comes with watery and clear secretion at the first few days and later become thicker and darker. 

What are the flu symptoms?
What are the flu symptoms?

Symptoms of flu

As mentioned earlier, Flu symptoms are much severe than common cold and Flu happens quickly.  You will develop a sore throat, cough, nose congestion, fever and headache.  Usually you will also experience muscle aches and soreness.

Your symptoms will improve over two to five days.  However, for young and elderly or people with heart and lung problem might develop into pneumonia.  If you experience shortness of breath, or your fever comes and go, please go consult your doctor immediately.

Differences between Cold and Flu
Differences between Cold and Flu

Differences between Cold and Flu in a glance:

Signs and Symptoms


Influenza (Flu)

Symptoms onset





Common; lasts 3-4 days



Common; often severe



Fairly common

Fatigue, weakness






Chest Discomfort, Cough

Mild to moderate

Common; can be severe

Stuffy nose



Sore Throat






Source: CDC

What are the prevention for Flu and Cold?
What are the prevention for Flu and Cold?

Preventing Flu and Cold

As viruses enter the body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth.  It is vital to keep a good hand hygiene, or else you are prone to be infected each time when you touch them with your hands.

And of course, is to take a flu vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza. Once you have taken the vaccine, it would take two weeks to develop the antibodies in the body to provide protection against flu.  For children below 9 years of age that is receiving the vaccine the first time would need two does delivered one month apart.




2023-2024 Influenza Vaccination FAQs (in...
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