Flu or cold? These symptoms will tell you

One creeps up slowly, the other comes suddenly. The cold is often mild, the flu is usually severe. The two diseases can be clearly distinguished from each other.

“I have the flu,” many say when they have symptoms such as coughing , sore throat or a stuffy nose in winter  . But most of them only have one cold . It can be quite uncomfortable. However, it differs significantly from the real flu , influenza . What both infectious diseases have in common is that they are triggered by viruses, albeit by different types of viruses. Many people get colds up to four times a year; they usually pass by themselves without leaving any traces. The flu, on the other hand, is a very serious and – if complications – potentially fatal illness.

Cold symptoms: A cold comes slowly, goes quickly

Itchy throat,  sore throat  or hoarseness – these are usually the classic cold symptoms. A cold is often referred to as a flu-like infection or rhinitis. A stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, coughing or headache can occur within a few days. Often there is also a fever and slight unspecific pain. The mucous membrane of the throat can also be reddened and inflamed when you have a cold (pharyngitis). The peak is usually reached two to three days after the outbreak of the infection. And after a week, sometimes after two or three weeks, the worst is over. This is the normal course of a cold in people who do not have any other illnesses.

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Symptoms of the flu: Comes quickly, stays long

The symptoms of  influenza, on the other hand, come suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. From now on, an extreme feeling of illness sets in with a fever that feels like chills, with exhaustion and aching limbs. Influenza affects not only the airways, but the entire body. The fever rises very quickly.

Symptoms of real viral flu include:

  • high fever: 38 to 40 degrees Celsius
  • Muscle and body aches and pains throughout the body
  • Headache and feeling very sick
  • dry cough with no phlegm and a stuffy or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite and severe fatigue

After a common cold, you are usually fit again quickly. You may feel badly impaired for a long time after the flu. For weeks, sometimes months, you can still feel very exhausted, dull and listless. Physical activity accompanied by heavy sweats is very exhausting for you.

By the way: There is a vaccination against the real flu – but not against colds. The vaccine is reassembled every year, depending on which pathogens are currently circulating. Information on the current flu wave is available on the website of the Robert Koch Institute ( RKI ). 

Flu and cold: bacteria take advantage of the situation

In the case of severe influenza , other organs in addition to the respiratory tract can be sick: the gastrointestinal area, joints and muscles or the brain. If  bacteria penetrate the body as a result of  the virus , this puts additional strain on the already weakened body. Doctors then speak of a so-called superinfection . It most often manifests itself in the form of bronchitis. Elderly people in particular can also get pneumonia caused by bacteria. Such bacterial pneumonia can also quickly affect people with chronic diseases. People with chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases are at risk with theDiabetes or people with weak immune systems. The brain (encephalitis) or the heart muscle (myocarditis) can also become inflamed.

However, the flu can run so easily that it is mistaken for a bad cold. Doctors cannot distinguish such a mild form from other colds. Unless the doctor does rapid virus tests or special examinations .

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