The difference between a cold and the flu

Table of contents:

The difference between a cold and the flu
The difference between a cold and the flu

Often people mistakenly claim they “have the flu” when it is a cold. Attention, it must be understood here that the 2 evils are very different.


Alas, autumn not only brings us fresh air, it also brings us its share of “germ” transmissions. One of the most virulent is that of influenza, the virus responsible for the flu, and now we must add the famous H1N1 to the top of the list.

The main difference between a cold and the flu is that the flu comes on suddenly: in the morning everything is fine, but in the afternoon it's a different story, while the cold starts slowly, often with a sore throat, followed by a runny nose, etc.

Here is a table of the main differences

Symptoms Flu Cold
Fever High for a few days Rare
Sore throat Presence Current presence

Running and Loud

Cervature Common, sometimes sharp Rare
Fatigue From the beginning Rare
Sneezing Sometimes Current
Cough Common, can become severe Current
Runny nose Sometimes Current
Duration Weeks A few days
  • The flu is transmitted very easily, by sneezing or coughing.
  • The influenza virus can survive 48 hours on non-porous surfaces such as telephones, computer keyboards, doorknobs, etc.
  • It may take a day or a week for symptoms to appear. In the meantime, you can infect other people. This is why frequent hand washing is important in addition to vaccinations.


Each year, the three strains of influenza virus that are expected to be the most common are identified. Vaccines are then made based on these strains. Vaccination should be given annually. A single dose is sufficient and provides protection that lasts between 4 to 6 months. Children under the age of 9 should receive 2 doses of the flu vaccine one month apart, if it is the first time they have received it.

Vaccination should not be delayed or postponed due to mild illnesses such as colds. This infection does not increase the risk of side effects or inhibit the immune response tovaccine.

In the majority of cases, the vaccine causes few reactions. The most common side effects following vaccination are tenderness and redness at the injection site, mild fever, headache and muscle aches. Within 24 hours of vaccination, the person may experience red eyes, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face. This is called “oculo-respiratory syndrome (ORS)”. This syndrome is observed less and less. Very rarely, serious allergic reactions may occur after vaccination. The literature mentions that it is possible that there is a very low risk (1 per million doses) of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome (progressive and reversible paralysis, but which can sometimes leave sequelae).

Any child or adult who has ever had a serious allergic reaction to eggs or to a dose of influenza vaccine, or who has had Guillain-Barré syndrome or who has had ocular or respiratory symptoms (oculosyndrome -respiratory: ORS) following a dose of influenza vaccine, should not receive the vaccine

In conclusion, the influenza vaccine is very safe, it cannot cause the flu and above all: there are many more risks in suffering from the disease than in receiving the vaccine.

True or False

You don't die of the flu. False. You can die of the flu. Influenza complications cause deaths each year, especially amongelderly and some chronically ill people.

To help you teach children the difference between a cold and the flu, watch this video from the fabulous TiDoc series with your children!

In TiDoc’ the medical content has been designed and validated in several stages by a scientific committee made up of he alth specialists and pediatric specialists. (

I'm never sick. Then I don't need to get the flu shot. False. The flu is contagious. I can catch it, like everyone else, and pass it on.

I can prevent the flu. True. We can now prevent the flu by getting vaccinated every fall. It is suggested to receive the vaccine as soon as possible to allow the antibodies to develop.

The vaccine protects against the flu and the common cold. False. The flu and the common cold are different. The vaccine is effective against the flu, but it does not protect against colds or other respiratory infections.

The vaccine gives the flu. False. The vaccine never gives the flu because it contains no live virus.

The flu shot is only available to seniors. False. Anyone can catch the flu and can be vaccinated. However, the vaccine is only free for the elderly, people at risk, and children between 6 and 23 months, as well as their immediate family.

The vaccine protects me for several years. False. The composition of the vaccine is reviewed every year and protection is only provided for the current year.


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