Fall into Flu Season w/ the Facts: Cold vs. Flu vs. H1N1??

Do you know what the different symptoms between the common cold and the seasonal flu are?  Do you know the difference between the seasonal flu and H1N1?  Do you know how long the virus can live, outside of a carrier?  How long you’re contagious for?

With the onslaught of flu season and as the word pandemic starts to breathe fear into everyone’s H1N1 concerns, I thought an incredibly helpful post would consolidate important news and resources into a single location, broken up into a series of posts.  I tried to keep it in one article and there’s just TOO much information out there.  I verified facts across the multiple government health websites (including the CDC, Flu.gov) as well as other reputable online medical resources (like the Mayo Clinic and WebMD) so that you could quickly get the facts.

Let this help you share ONLY information (and not the germs) with your friends, coworkers, and family.

Informational Flu Post includes:

  • Cold vs. Flu – How sick am I?!
  • Detailed Flu and Cold information – How long do symptoms last, how long are you contagious for, how long does the virus live on objects…
  • Seasonal Flu vs. H1N1 – Know the symptoms of the common flu, H1N1, and other “popular” strands of the virus!
  • Preventive Actions – How to keep from getting sick and spreading the viruses if you do have it!

Future posts will include:

  • Flu social media resources – Best flu tweeps to follow and other social media resources
  • Infected – What to do if you do have the flu, when to go to the doctors, etc.
  • Vaccinations – Detailed information about the different vaccinations (who’s high risk, etc.), when and where to get it.

*Hope to post everything by the end of this week!

Cold vs. Flu

In the past week, I have probably looked up the symptoms of a cold and symptoms of the flu several times (every time one of my symptoms changes…)  I consolidated all the symptoms to this simple chart based on information from several top medial resources (Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, WebMD):

Symptoms

Common Cold

Seasonal Flu

Runny or stuffy nose

Common

Occasionally

Itchy or sore throat

Common

Occasionally

Cough

Mild

Common,

Chest discomfort

Congestion

Common

Sometimes

Sneezing

Sometimes

Sometimes

Watery eyes

Sometimes

Rarely

Fever

Rare, Low-grade

102+ F, Frequently

Fatigue/Tiredness

Mild

Common, 2-3 weeks

Headache

Rare, Mild

Common

Body Aches

Rare, Mild

Common, severe

Diarrhea

No

Sometimes

Vomiting

No

Sometimes

Chills

N

Common

*NOTE: Colds and the seasonal flu are all respiratory illnesses that are caused by DIFFERENT viruses.

In most of the articles I read, another determinate between differentiating between the flu and a cold is the severity of symptoms.  While many symptoms are found in both illnesses, the flu’s extremeness (i.e. extreme exhaustion, high-grade temperature, extreme chest discomfort) is a good indicator that you don’t just have a common cold…

The Mayo Clinic also offers a flu checklist.

Detailed Flu and Cold information:

Researching this article was incredibly helpful for me (and both my parents are nurses!)  I have included other interesting and important to know information about characteristics of both the seasonal flu and common cold:

Common Cold Seasonal Flu
Length of Illness Symptoms for 4-10 days 7 days with fatigue potentially lasting several weeks
Incubation Period (Time before symptoms appear) 1-3 days of coming in contact w/ virus 2-5 days of coming in contact w/ virus
Contagious

(Time to avoid ppl)

First 3 days you have symptoms 1 day before symptoms show, up to 5 days after
Flu Spreads

(Tips and tricks to catching flu/cold)

Touching eyes, mouth, nose after making contact (touching contaminated object) with virus (droplets from spit, coughing) Touching eyes, mouth, nose after making contact (touching contaminated object) with virus (droplets from spit, coughing)
Virus Survival

(Length of time virus lives on objects)

Up to 3-4 hours outside the body on skin or objects… Up to a couple of days, depending on the surface!

Seasonal Flu vs. H1N1

This chart was also the consolidated version of multiple resources from WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and Flu.gov (which is a government site dedicated to flu information.)  Although H1N1 is a household term, the specifics of the symptoms is not always known.  Although you don’t have to have the additional symptoms, the following chart can be used as a helpful indicator.

Check back here for Flu.gov’s updated version of symptoms for both seasonal and H1N1 strains:

Seasonal Flu

H1N1 Flu

Fever

Fever

Coughing and/or sore throat

Coughing and/or sore throat

Runny or stuffy nose

Runny or stuffy nose

Headaches and/or body aches

Headaches and/or body aches

Chills

Chills

Fatigue

Fatigue

Vomiting

Diarrhea

*Although you can have H1N1 without having the additional symptoms, the final 2 are often indicative of the illness.

Preventive Actions (Catching and Spreading Illness)

1 – Wash hands with soap and water, constantly!! The physical friction from rubbing your hands together eliminates additional germs that aren’t killed by hand sanitizer.  (Check back soon for my in-depth post on the effectiveness of different hand sanitizers and why!)

2 – Cover your mouth w/ a tissue when you cough and sneeze…if you don’t have a tissue (and especially if you won’t be able to wash your hands or hand sanitize), cough or sneeze into your sleeve or arm.  (Afterwards, refrain from rubbing said sleeve on your friend’s eyeballs…)

3 – Get plenty of sleep; those who get less than 7 hours have more weakened immune systems!

4 – Help prevent others from getting sick! If you were infected with any kind of flu, the CDC recommends remaining home until you’re fever free (w/o fever reducing medicine like Tylenol or Motrin) for at LEAST 24 hours!

*My next post will go into more details about this!

Great Resources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [Seasonal Flu] – Information from the CDC about the seasonal flu.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [H1N1 Flu] – Information from the CDC about H1N1.

Flu.gov – One-stop access to U.S. Government H1N1, avian and pandemic flu information.

Mayo Clinic [Common Cold] – Includes overview, definition, detailed information, prevention, treatment, remedies, causes and risks for the common cold.

Mayo Clinic [Seasonal Flu] – Includes overview, definition, detailed information, prevention, treatment, remedies, causes and risks for the seasonal flu.

4 thoughts on “Fall into Flu Season w/ the Facts: Cold vs. Flu vs. H1N1??

  1. At least a hundred persons in our city have been infected with the H1N1 virus. I was very scared to get infected with this disease during the pandemic”.~

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