Do I have a cold or the flu?

Cold/common cold and Flu are two separate illnesses caused by different types of viruses. As the symptoms for both illnesses are mostly similar, it is rather difficult to diagnose which one is affecting an individual simply on the basis of symptoms alone. Nevertheless, while the symptoms may be of similar types to some degree, a significant difference can be seen in terms of severity. Flu causes intense symptoms and can lead to development of some severe complications. Symptoms of common cold are rather mild. Also, the Flu vaccine is targeted against “the Flu” not the common cold.


What is the common cold?

The common cold is caused by multiple viruses, including seasonal coronavirus (different from the Covid-19 virus), rhinovirus, RSV and parainfluenza. In addition to these, other viruses can also cause the common cold. Typical symptoms are runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, mild body aches, sore throat, cough, lethargy/general feeling of being unwell. The condition is self-limiting and resolves within 7 to 10 days. Symptoms can be associated with earache or sinusitis. Treatment is only symptomatic relief.


What is Flu or Influenza?


Flu is caused by the Influenza virus. Symptoms range from mild to serious and complications may occur that can be serious enough to lead to severe decompensation of respiratory status or lung health and can lead to hospitalization and even death. Not all patients suffering from Flu will develop serious complications.

Mild symptoms like runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, fever with chills, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue/body aches are fairly common in individuals affected by the Influenza virus. Generally, recovery from such mild symptoms occurs within a few days to less than two weeks.

Moderate symptoms are due to complications which can develop due to superimposed bacterial infections. These infections may cause ear infections or sinus infections. A serious complication and feared complication is pneumonia which can either be caused solely caused by the Influenza virus or by co-infection by other bacteria.

People at risk of more serious complications are those with age more than 65 years, having co-morbid/chronic illness like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, heart conditions, neurological disorders, and immunosuppressive illnesses. Such groups of individuals are strongly encouraged to get their Flu shots every year to keep themselves protected and to exercise common sense precautions in avoiding contact with others who may be actively infected by and symptomatic due to the Flu virus.


Will the Flu season be worse this year in comparison to the year before?

Many infectious disease specialists predict that this year the flu season may actually be worse than the year prior. For a variety of reasons, in the pandemic, there was a decrease in the number of flu cases seen in the year 2020 – 2021. This is not expected to be the case in 2021-2022 and the number of cases of flu are expected to increase.

It is really too early for us to know how the 2021 to 2022 flu season will play itself out but it is truly important to get the flu vaccine to help one protect oneself. Doctors feel that some of the natural immunity that may develop each year with having had the flu seems to have decreased a little bit in the past year since fewer individuals were affected by the flu. There is clearly a lot of uncertainty about this year’s flu season but the best way to protect oneself and those around oneself both at home as well as at the workplace is to go ahead and get the flu vaccine in good time. Decrease in flu infections in the year past was primarily due to people practicing the COVID-19 precautions such as wearing face masks practicing social distancing and due to fewer individuals remaining in close quarters with other individuals both at work as well as socially. As increased number of people continue to get vaccinated and fewer individuals are practicing complete or significant social isolation/ distancing, laxity with mask wearing, we expect that the number of flu cases to actually increase.


Can I get the Flu vaccine and my COVID-19 immunization or booster on the same day?

Yes, it is possible to have both vaccines on the same day.


Should you or anyone you need to see a pulmonologist, please call The Chest Clinic- Dr. Javed Husain & Associates. We offer both online video consultation as well as outpatient clinic and in-hospital care for all our patients. To make an appointment please call +923018479066 or leave us a message by WhatsApp  requesting an appointment and a member of our team will call back and connect with you.