Differences Between Influenza And Common Cold

Posted August 20, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

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

How to find out if the symptoms are due to Cold or Flu?


High in flu and low or none in cold


Severe in flu and mild in cold


Can last for weeks in flu and mild in cold


Very common in flu and sometimes in cold


Common in flu and rare in cold


Severe in flu and slight in cold

Stuffy, runny Nose

Common in cold and flu

Sore throat

Sometimes in flu and common in cold


Very common in cold and sometimes in flu

Similarities and differences between influenza and common cold

Influenza (flu) and the common cold are both contagious respiratory tract illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. They have a lot of similarities and it becomes difficult to distinguish between them. Some of the most common similarities and differences include:



The symptoms of cold and flu are very similar at the onset with runny nose, headache, fatigue and difficulty in breathing.


Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu and it generally does not result in serious health problems.



Both cold and influenza are caused by viruses.


Flu is caused by influenza viruses only, whereas the common cold can be caused by a number of other viruses, including rhinoviruses, parainfluenza, and seasonal coronaviruses.

Incubation period


Both the diseases are highly contagious and have an incubation period (the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) of minimum 1 day before the individual starts experiencing symptoms.


The exact incubation period for influenza is 1-4 days and 1-7 days for cold.

Duration of illness


Influenza and common cold cause respiratory tract illness ranging from 4 days to two weeks.


A cold’s duration (how long it lasts) is about 7 to 10 days; however, depending upon the viral strain, it can last up to two weeks. The flu’s duration varies from about 5 days to two weeks depending upon the severity of the infection.

Risk factors


Both have similar risk factors i.e. younger children, old people, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk.


Individuals who do not receive the yearly flu vaccine are more likely to risk getting infected with a flu virus but there is no vaccination to prevent against common cold.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccination?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) & Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, 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

common-cold influenza flu

Subscribe For More Content