Is it Flu or Cold? Find out the Difference

Sanofi_flu vs cold

One fine morning, you wake up with a scratchy throat and runny nose. Add a pounding head and cough, and you’re set for a day in bed. You assume it must be common cold, right? Well, not necessarily. A lot of symptoms of common cold resemble the symptoms of a potentially more dangerous condition called influenza (commonly known as “flu”). While neither is pleasant to catch, flu can be much more severe and can last longer than a cold. Besides, there are enough other differences that may help you figure out which one you have.

Cold or Flu? Which one do you have?

Both seasonal flu and common cold affect your breathing system due to infection with viruses. Although many viruses cause cold, the common one is the rhinovirus. Flu, on the other hand, is caused by the influenza virus[1].

Here’s how to find out if the symptoms are due to Cold or Flu[1]:

Fever: HIGH in flu and LOW/NONE in cold

Cough: SEVERE in flu and MILD in cold

Fatigue: CAN LAST FOR WEEKS in flu and MILD in cold

Headache: VERY COMMON in flu and SOMETIMES in cold

Chills: COMMON in flu and RARE in cold

Aches/pains: SEVERE in flu and SLIGHT in cold

Stuffy, runny Nose: COMMON in cold and flu

Sore throat: SOMETIMES in flu and COMMON in cold 

Sneezing: VERY COMMON in cold and SOMETIMES in flu

What YOU may NOT know about the Flu

If you’re infected with flu, you may find these symptoms appearing suddenly, while this may not be the case with a common cold. Unlike common cold, flu may typically drag on and have many more serious health complications. Pneumonia and bacterial infections are oftentimes associated with flu.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccination?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) & Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India[2,3], annual vaccination is recommended for people who belong to the high-risk group which includes:

-Pregnant women

-Children in the age group of 6 months to 5 years

People above 65 years of age

People with chronic health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchial asthma, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, and cancer

-People working in healthcare settings such as hospitals or labs


Annual influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications.

Annual flu vaccination is highly recommended because the active strains of influenza virus change every year. Moreover, the immunity from the vaccination also wanes off over time, so annual vaccination can offer better protection from the virus. It can also worsen chronic health problems like asthma and heart disease[4]. That’s why it is recommended to get your flu vaccine every year!

Getting an annual flu shot can go a long way in protecting you from the flu and lowering the severity of the infection, especially if you have chronic health problems.

Ask your doctor to know more about influenza vaccination today!


1. Cold Versus Flu. Symptoms & Diagnosis. Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from:

2. Ask the expert: Influenza Q&A. Influenza (Seasonal). The World Health Organization (WHO). Available from:

3. Guidelines on categorization of Seasonal Influenza cases during screening for home isolation, testing, treatment and hospitalization (Revised on 18.10.2016). Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Seasonal Influenza. Available from:

4. Flu Symptoms & Complications. Symptoms & Diagnosis. Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from:


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent and unbiased views solely of the publisher. This is a part of the public awareness initiative on influenza supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of this article. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2019 14:58:25 IST

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