Cold and Flu: Important Facts and Therapy Guidelines

Colds and flu affect us throughout the year, with regular outbreaks occurring during colder seasons when there is a higher chance to catch the disease. These viral respiratory infections are the most common diseases among humans: normally adults experience them one to three times during the year. However, the symptoms of the common cold and flu should never be neglected, warn the doctors. As viral respiratory infections usually do not result in health complications, people tend to treat them lightly and ignore proper treatment. Consequently, secondary bacterial infections can develop and cause such diseases as otitis media, bronchitis, sinusitis, and even pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to know the basics of proper cold and flu treatment.

Cold and flu: what’s the difference?

Cold and flu are viral diseases that infect the upper respiratory tract. Flu is caused by influenza viruses A, B, and C. More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, while rhinoviruses are responsible for most cases. Being exposed to cold temperatures is not the actual cause of these diseases, although it can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection. Knowing the main differences between the common cold and flu can be important to prevent possible health complications.

It is generally held that the common cold is better tolerated than the flu. Influenza, on the other hand, can lead to complications such as pneumonia and bacterial infections. The symptoms of the common cold are normally mild and disappear within a week. If your condition becomes severe and does not improve over several days, a visit to the hospital is strongly recommended to assess the course of the disease and the possible threat of complications. This comparative table can help understand the difference between cold and flu symptoms.

Flu Common cold
Rapidly infests the body, often taking a severe form and making the person feel seriously ill. The general condition of a person with a cold is better.
Patients often suffer from high temperatures and fever. The patient’s temperature may become slightly higher.
Symptoms such as body aches, general weakness, pain in the joints, and dry cough are manifested more intensely. Symptoms such as dry cough, general weakness, and body aches manifest in a milder form.
All symptoms appear almost simultaneously. Symptoms appear one by one: most often the common cold begins with a sore and scratchy throat, followed by a runny nose, and then by a cough.
On average the disease lasts about 2 weeks. The symptoms of a cold gradually disappear over a week.
Nasal congestion is not a symptom of the flu. Nasal congestion is a common symptom of a cold.

Both colds and flu can lead to ear pain. This is a consequence of inflammation of the eardrum and the Eustachian tube (the canal that connects the throat and the middle ear cavity). The pain may be sharp, dull, or expressed as a burning sensation. Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu. The vaccine is made from dead particles of the influenza virus, which are harmless to the body and help produce antibodies to fight the disease. To reduce the risk of getting colds and flu, one can follow certain recommendations: eat enough fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins to increase immunity, wash one’s hands after going outside, and take physical exercise to improve general health.


There are both similarities and differences in treating colds and flu. In all cases, the affected person should stay at home, reduce contact with family members as much as possible, and use individual plates and cutlery. It is necessary to ventilate the room more often, carry out wet cleaning, and disinfect household items regularly.

To reduce the symptoms of intoxication, drink plenty of water. Especially helpful are drinks made from berries and fruits rich in vitamin C: lemons, rosehip, chokeberry, currant, etc. In the first days of the disease, a low-calorie diet with frequent light meals 6–7 times a day is recommended. Consider liquid and well-ground food to help digestion.

In most cases, the body can deal with the virus on its own. Thus, more attention is paid to symptomatic therapy aimed at relieving symptoms, improving the patient’s condition, and preventing the development of complications. In more severe cases, the doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs and drugs to support and stimulate the immune system to help fight the infection.

Symptomatic treatment of flu and cold: medicines to make you feel better

Certain products on the market combine several drugs to address all symptoms of colds and flu at one time. Products such as Maxicold, Coldrex, and others provide antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and vasoconstrictive effects. However, a particular person may experience only one or two symptoms and does not require all of their components. To reduce the drug burden, it is better to choose medicines from Advance Canadian pharmacy that have a specific effect.

  • Antipyretics (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin). Having a cold or flu, try to lower the temperature only above 38 degrees, since fever activates mechanisms that help combat the virus.
  • Local anti-inflammatory drugs (Analgin, Ibuprofen, Mesulid). Usually, antipyretic drugs also have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Antihistamines (Claritin, Fenistil, Zirtek) are prescribed for colds and flu to relieve swelling and nasal congestion. Modern antihistamines usually do not cause drowsiness, which was common for drugs of the previous generation.
  • Vasoconstrictors (Naphthyzin, Sanorin, Tizin) facilitate nasal breathing. However, their use must be limited in time, otherwise patients may develop chronic rhinitis.
  • Drugs to relieve cough (Lazolvan, Stoptussin) facilitate the discharge of sputum and help make the cough productive. Taking cough suppressants is not recommended.
  • Vitamins help to support the body weakened during illness. Vitamin C as well as vitamins A, B12, PP and E are recommended to take during a cold or flu.

Other drugs can be prescribed depending on the course of the disease. For example, in case of secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics are indicated. Whether it is worth taking them is always decided by the doctor.

In severe cases of the disease, antiviral and immunomodulatory agents may be prescribed. Since the manifestations of common cold and flu can be extremely similar, preference should be given to antiviral drugs that are effective regardless of the specific virus. Criteria for choosing an antiviral drug for colds and flu include: broad-spectrum action, possible combination of antiviral and immunomodulatory effects, lack of toxicity, mild of side effects, affordability. Currently, for the treatment and prevention of influenza and other acute respiratory viral infections, antiviral drugs of several groups are recommended, including: neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir, zanamivir), interferons (Alfaron, Grippferon, Ingaron, Viferon), interferon inductors (Cycloferon, Tiloron, Kagocel), Ingavirin, Anaferon, Ergoferon.