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10 Things You Should Know About – Cold vs. the Flu

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10 Things You Should Know About the Cold vs. the Flu
By Katelyn Hayes

Getting sick is not fun for anyone it’s downright miserable. Two very common and well-known respiratory illnesses are the cold and the flu. It is important to treat both but it is especially important to be able to tell the difference between the two. Treatment of the flu is crucial because if it is not taken care of properly, it can lead to other serious bacterial infections, pneumonia, or hospitalization. Distinguishing the differences between the cold and the flu can be very difficult. Here are some key symptoms to be aware of as well as some preventative mechanisms:

1) Colds are typically harmless – although can be miserable to experience! Its common symptoms consist of:
.runny nose
.sore throat
.frequent sneezing
There are more than 100 different viruses that can cause a cold but the most common perpetrator is “rhinovirus.” (1)

2) Children are most susceptible to getting a cold as age is a risk factor. The reason being is that their immune system has not completely developed yet, and that makes them vulnerable to viruses. In addition to that, kids aren’t the best at knowing how to be cautious of germs. Otitis media (a.k.a. acute ear infections) are also more common for children & infants to experience. Infants especially need immediate care when experiencing a cold because they cannot tell you what they are feeling and they will have an extremely hard time breathing when doing things such as breastfeeding. (1)

3) The flu is caused by influenza viruses. Some symptoms to key in on that are not typical of the cold that you may experience with influenza are:
. Fever – typically high
. Fatigue
. Body aches and pains
Influenza spreads between different people by those with the virus spreading germs by coughing or sneezing. The bacteria can be transferred into respiratory droplets after a person obtains the germs on their hand and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth – hence the importance of regularly washing your hands! (2)

4) It is very important to seek medical attention when experiencing these symptoms because the severity of this illness can have fatal outcomes for people with certain health
conditions. People ages 65 and older as well as people with chronic health conditions are at a high risk for complications. If not treated promptly and properly, the infection can lead to pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic illnesses. Children and infants are also at risk for developing sinus problems and ear infections – similar to the cold. (2)

5) The best protection against the flu according to CDC is to get a flu vaccination. There are two types you should know about:
1- The Shot – Most of us don’t like shots but this really can help prevent the flu. It is an inactivated vaccine that contains the influenza virus exposing it to your body so that when and if you should become exposed to it, it can be fought off by your immune system.
2- Nasal Spray – This is a vaccine that contains a live & weakened flu virus. It is also known as FluMist or LAIV(live attenuated influenza vaccine). It is not recommended for pregnant women, children under age 2, people over age 49, or unhealthy people. (2)

6) There are no vaccines to prevent colds because there are so many different viruses that can cause it. Please take note of these precautionary mechanisms for spreading colds to others:
* Wash your hands! Or frequently use antibacterial wipes.
* Clean everything you touch routinely – from countertops to doorknobs and keyboards.
* Use tissues and discard them right away.
* Be cautious to not share with others- no sharing of drinking glasses.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
* Steer clear of others – you don’t want to have contact with someone for a long time that has a cold and you don’t want to pass it along to anyone.
* Be courteous – cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing.
* Stay home for at least 24 hours after any fevers have subsided.
Precautions for preventing the spread of influenza are the same as for a cold. (1, 2)

7) The best way to kill off the influenza virus is heat. Your body is a natural producer of heat which is the reasoning behind having a fever – it’s fighting off the infection. Another effective procedure for killing off the virus is by using chemical germicides such as chlorine, detergent, hydrogen peroxide, iodine-based antiseptics, and alcohol. (2)

8) some medications help in treating a cold or flu & relieving their symptoms. Tylenol and other acetaminophen drugs can aid mild pain from headache, sore throat and fevers. There are also a variety of decongestant nasal sprays, & cough syrups. However, these are not for everyone and it is important to ask your healthcare provider for instruction before consuming any drug.(1, 3)

9) There are some cases in which emergency medical attention is needed. Here are some warning signs:
>difficulty breathing
> Symptoms that return and worsen
> Pain in the chest or abdomen
>sudden dizziness
>high fever
In children (in addition to the above):
>bluish skin color
> Not drinking enough fluids
>not waking up or interacting
> Fever with a rash
> No tears when crying
> Unable to eat
If any of these symptoms are occurring, please seek immediate medical attention. (2)

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10) Lastly, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider for instruction on what to do for treatment and prevention. Consult any plans for treatment with your doctor before taking any medication or other remedy.


1) Mayo Clinic Staff,. “Common Cold.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Feb 2011. Web. 10 Apr 2011. <>.
2) “Flu (Influenza).” National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 04 Oct 2009. Web. 10 Apr 2011. <>.
3) “Cold vs. Flu.” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 08 Feb 2011. Web. 10 Apr 2011. <>.




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