While both colds and influenza (the flu) are caused by viruses, they tend to cause different symptoms as they progress and require different approaches to treat them. The germs that cause colds and flu enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes, lodging in the moist sinus cavities, throat, and lungs. Both are more common during the winter when lower humidity dries out mucous membranes and people are generally indoors more often and in more confined spaces where the viruses can spread more easily. One primary difference between a cold and the flu is that there is a vaccination that can help prevent a person from contracting the flu, but there is no vaccination to prevent catching a cold.
Both conditions can cause similar symptoms like:
But flu symptoms can also include aches and pains throughout the body, as well as a higher fever that's often accompanied by chills. Flu usually requires a longer recovery period, with symptoms like fatigue lasting two weeks or longer. Without medical treatment, both conditions can progress and cause serious medical issues in some patients.
Yes, flu vaccines are very safe, and they can play a very important role in preventing disease, especially among the elderly, the very young and people with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions like heart disease.
No, the flu vaccine won't cause illness, but it can cause mild symptoms like a headache or a very mild fever. These are natural reactions that occur as the body creates antibodies used to battle the flu virus if the body comes under attack. Any mild symptoms that do occur will resolve very quickly. A few people may be allergic to some flu vaccines that use eggs in the manufacturing process, and patients should always let the doctor know if they're allergic to eggs before having the flu vaccine so they can receive an “egg-free” version.
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