Cold vs. Flu–Their Symptoms and How They Spread

A sick couple sitting on the couch in sweaters blowing their noses and coughing

Every year we hear the admonishments to get out and get a flu shot, and to watch out for the common cold, but how many of us really know the difference between the two?  The answer is, sadly, not many and that means that its possible that we’re treating a cold like the flu, which can be counterproductive at worst, and ineffective at best.  So how do you tell the difference between these two conditions and what can you do to treat them? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you find your way through this cold and flu season a little better informed, and hopefully a little healthier.

What Is The Flu?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the flu.  Every year we know people who faithfully get their flu-shot and yet wind up coming down with it anyway, perhaps leaving you wondering why they bother.  To understand this phenomenon it’s important to understand that the flu is not one disease, but a family of diseases and the flu shot only immunizes you against four or five of the ones that the CDC suspects will be the biggest problem in any given year.  However, all of these cases of flu share one thing in common, they’re caused by a virus and can be classified as either a Type A or a Type B Flu strain.

  • Type A – This type of flu is either exclusive to the animal kingdom, or can be found crossing the boundary to both humans and animals alike.  You may remember the Avian flu scare from some time ago, this was the example of a Type A flu that infected birds, but could be contracted by humans.
  • Type B – This type of flu is significantly rarer than Type A cases of flu and exclusively appear in humans.


So why doesn’t the flu vaccine work on all flu if there are only two types?  Within these types, there are countless varieties, and the flu is known for its remarkable ability to adapt and become immune to vaccines and medication.

So What About The Common Cold?
Just like we experience with  “The Flu”, the “Common Cold” isn’t so common, nor is it a single strain of a virus.  In fact, there are over 200 virus strains that bear the blame for the ‘common cold’, and that’s one of the reasons there’s no magic bullet to prevent it from setting in.  The cold affects sinuses, larynx, throat, and is mostly centered on the nose. In those patients who have a weak immune system or are already sick the cold can become pneumonia.

Don’t let the cold or flu ruin your day, pick up the phone and give the professionals at Conroe Family Doctor a call today.  When you make an appointment with Dr. Trang Nguyen or one of their associates you’ll be seeing a respected family doctor in the Conroe, Texas area.  They take pride in helping their patients through life’s little illnesses and are there to help your family survive the cold and flu season without a sniffle.

Call For Complimentary Consultation Today
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