Both influenza and the common cold
are viral respiratory infections (they affect the nose, throat,
and lungs). Viruses are spread from person to person through airborne
droplets that are sneezed out or coughed up by an infected person.
In some cases, the viruses can be spread when a person touches an
infected surface (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, telephones) and
then touches his or her nose, mouth, or eyes. As such, these illnesses
are most easily spread in crowded conditions such as schools.
Influenza is commonly referred to as the flu. Between October
and March each year, approximately 10-40% of people are stricken
with influenza. Although most people recover fully, the flu causes
approximately 7,000 deaths annually in Canada, mostly among high-risk
populations (people with other medical conditions or weakened immune
systems, the elderly, or very young children). There are three types
of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Type A influenza causes the most
serious problems in humans.
There are over 200 different known cold viruses, but most colds
(30-40%) are caused by rhinoviruses. In Canada, the peak times for
colds are at the start of school in the fall, in mid-winter, and
again in early spring. Children catch approximately eight colds
per year, adults catch roughly four per year, and seniors about
two per year.
Many people confuse the flu with a bad cold. The following table
highlights the differences between influenza and the common cold:
People infected with an influenza or cold virus become contagious
24 hours after the virus enters the body (often before symptoms appear).
Adults remain infectious (can spread the virus to others) for about
6 days, and children remain infectious for up to 10 days.
|| Usually present, high (102-104 0F
or 38-41 0C); lasts 3-4 days
|| Very common
| Aches and pains
|| Common and often severe
| Fatigue and weakness
|| Can last up to 14-21 days
| Extreme exhaustion
|| Very common at the start
| Stuffy nose
| Sore throat
| Chest discomfort, cough
|| Mild to moderate, hacking cough
Reference Source 39, 74