Blocked nose? Sneezing? Watery eyes? Most people think they’re down with a cold, but the influenza virus also mimics the same symptoms causing most people to interpret flu as cold gone worse (or a bad cold).

Influenza, also termed as flu is a potent viral infection that attacks and weakens the respiratory system, i.e. the nose, throat, and lungs. It is extremely contagious and usually spreads through coughing and sneezing from an infected person.

When a person infected with influenza coughs or sneezes, the influenza virus spreads through the air and infects people nearby or in contact with the infected person. The virus can also spread by touching the contaminated surface and then touching your eyes or mouth with unwashed hands. Although it is most common in children below 5 years and adults above 65 years, people any age group are susceptible to the virus. Pregnant women are vulnerable. In some cases, a severe version of the influenza virus can also lead to life-threatening conditions like dehydration, pneumonia, bronchitis, congestive heart failure etc.

What Is Common Cold?

Common cold is a type of viral infection that usually affects the upper respiratory tract, i.e. the nose and throat. The common cold can occur due to different types of virus.

What Is Flu?

Flu symptoms may mimic a common cold, but they start suddenly – the patient may suffer from a sudden onset of fever, aches, chills, weakness, sneezing, headaches and stuffy nose and sore throat.

Do You Have A Cold Or Flu?

Common cold and flu are very similar to each other as most of the symptoms are common. Although both infections are respiratory illnesses, they both occur due to different types of viruses.

Common cold usually goes away on its own or in some cases requires medicines. Common cold takes three to four days to subside, but influenza usually takes one to two weeks to clear and the symptoms of flu are much worse and require prompt medical attention or in some cases even hospitalization. Flu viruses in fact vary from year to year, so it’s important to get a shot every year to be sure you’re protected.

Preventing Flu Through Vaccination

Annual influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications. Ministry Of Health and Family Welfare in India recommends annual vaccination for people with chronic illnesses such as COPD, Bronchial Asthma, Heart Disease, Liver Disease, Kidney Disease, Blood Disorders, Cancer and those who are immunocompromised.

The vaccine takes about 2-3 weeks for immunity to develop, hence it is advisable to take the shot at least one month prior to the commencement of the season.

According to the WHO, high-risk groups must protect themselves with Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. Vaccination is an important tool to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses. It brings down related hospitalisation cases across all age groups. Health experts and government agencies throughout the world say that the single best way to protect oneself from catching flu in immunocompromised patients is to have a flu vaccination every year to further prevent complications

Talk to your doctor to know more about influenza vaccination.

Disclaimer: This is a part of the public awareness initiative on influenza supported by Sanofi Pasteur India Pvt Ltd. The information shared here is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. One should consult a registered healthcare professional for any health-related information or treatment.