The flu vs the common cold

Because the common cold and the flu share similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between these two illnesses. Generally, the flu is more severe than the common cold, and so are the symptoms. If not treated in a timely manner, the flu may lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, organ failure, and worsening of chronic medical conditions. So it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of the flu when they present. 2,3

The difference between a cold and the flu

The flu is a contagious, infectious disease that impacts people of all ages and ethnicities 4,5

  • Annually, the flu places a significant burden on the health of the people living in the United States 6
  • Symptoms of the flu arise abruptly, within as little as 24 hours from infection 7
  • The clinical course of the flu lasts approximately 5 to 8 days 7
  • The flu can be contagious even before symptoms appear and for up to 5-7 days after 7

There are serious risks associated with the flu 8

  • The flu is associated with significant morbidity and mortality 6
  • The flu annually results in 140,000 to 960,000 hospitalizations and is associated with 12,000 to 79,000 deaths in the United States each year 8*

Because of the variable nature of the flu, many current flu management options are insufficient

  • Despite their availability, flu vaccines are not always used or are not always effective, leaving millions of people at risk
    • During the 2004-2018 flu seasons, vaccine effectiveness varied from 10-60% 9
  • Over-the-counter medications may relieve some flu-related symptoms, but they do not stop the virus at its source 10
  • Antivirals have been shown to shorten flu symptoms 11

Fight the flu with an antiviral


*2010-2011 through 2017-2018 flu seasons.

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