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Differences Between the Common Cold, Seasonal Flu, and H1N1 Symptoms

Updated on December 4, 2009

Getting Sick? What's Wrong?

During Flu season, you want to be careful that you don't assume you have the common cold to find out you're much sicker than you thought. It's a good idea that you know the basic symptoms of common illnesses so that you can make sure to get yourself or someone else medical assistance before the symptoms worsen.

For parents, it's always good to know the signs of illness in case your child gets sick, but the same goes for adults and the elderly. You want to make sure that when you're sick, you get treated before it worsens and develops into something worse.

Although, the symptoms may vary per person as to the severity, below you'll find the basic signs of the cold, flu, and H1N1.

Common Cold
Seasonal Flu
H1N1 (Swine Flu)
Fever is usually present in up to 80% of cases, with fever being over 101F
A hacking, productive (muscus-producing) cough is often present
A non-productive (dry and hacking/non-mucus producing) cough is often present
A non-productive (dry and hacking/non-mucus producing) cough is usually present
Slight body aches and pains may be present
Moderate body aches are common
Severe aches and pains are common
Stuffy Nose
Stuffy nose is commonly present, but typically resolves within a week
A runny nose is commonly present
Stuffy nose is not commonly present
Not common
Mild to moderate chills
60% of cases experience chills
Fairly mild tiredness
Moderate tiredness that can most likely be described as lack of energy.
Moderate to severe tiredness
No common
Symptom Onset
Cold symptoms will usually developing over a few days
Flu symptoms tend to develop over a few days, and generally include a flushed face, loss of appetite, dizziness, vomitting/nausea, and diarrhea. Symptoms usually last about 4-7 days.
Rapid onset of symptoms within 3-6 hours. H1N1 hits hard and fast. Includes sudden symptoms like high fever, diarrhea, and aches and pains that generaly last 4-7 days.
No common
Fairly common
Very common in about 80% of cases
Sore Throat
Not common
Chest Discomfort
Mild to moderate chest chest discomfort
Moderate chest discomfort, but if it turns severe you'll want to seek medical assistance fast and soon
Often severe chest discomfort

The Cold, Flu, & H1N1

Common Cold- A contagious, viral infection that occurs in the upper respiratory system, the common cold is one of the most common illnesses during the fall and winter seasons. In most cases, the illness will go away on its own, but in many cases, you want to take medication to help ease the symptoms that you're experiencing. There is no cure for the common cold, as it is an infectious disease, but the illness is rarely fatal. For the most part, if you can keep the symptoms under control, you can beat the cold within a week or so. Although, you may experience a few lingering symptoms, the overall cold will have been beaten and you would have only spent a few bucks at the pharmacy.

Seasonal Flu- In most cases, the flu may treat itself and run its course, but if you develop the flu, it's a good idea to get properly treated. In most cases a doctor will prescribe antiviral drugs to help your body and immune system beat the symptoms of the illness. The seasonal flu is contagious, which is why if you have the flu, you need to quarantine yourself until your doctor says that you are no longer contagious. Death is more frequent in related to the flu than it is the common cold, but the symptoms can be controlled.

H1N1- A contagious viral infection that may also be referred to as the Swine Flu. This illness can be much more severe that the flu. It is necessary that H1N1 is treated if symptoms appear. A doctor can run a few tests to determine the H1N1 diagnosis, and the prescription antibiotics are necessary in order to treat the illness. There are cases, where medical treatment is not needed, but at the same time most cases of H1N1 require medical assistance, treatment, and in some cases hospitalization. The swine flu has caused many deaths, which is why it is important to seek medical assistance if you think that you have H1N1.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed doctor. Consult your doctor if you think that you have the flu or H1N1. Also, consult your doctor if you feel that over-the-counter medications are not helping your symptoms, as a proper diagnosis will lead you to a proper treatment.


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    • HerbalScience profile image


      9 years ago from Naples, Florida

      You provide some very useful information for many people on determining if they have a cold or flu. No matter if a person has a cold or flu it is important that they keep themselves healthy and well-hydrated to fight off the germs. In fact the best way to prevent getting any of these conditions is to keep your immune system healthy and be sure to wash your hands.

    • Kmadhav profile image


      9 years ago from New delhi

      Great Hub and thank you for this hub I will forward to my friends.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      very helpful at a season that it's a concern. thanks for your post.

    • kirstenblog profile image


      9 years ago from London UK

      I enjoyed this hub, I would add that consideration should be taken in regards to lung infections. I say this because at the start of spring/summer I came down with the worst flu since childhood, it at some point turned into a lung infection. I just recently came down with a mild cold, nothing much really except that almost straight away I got another lung infection, it feels pretty mild in comparison to last time. Thing is that last time I got sick I had it in my head that it might be swine flu and called all the advised numbers and they didn't seem interested as I did not need to stay in the hospital, without the lung infection it probably would not have felt so horrid.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Good information. We are all getting confuse I think just now

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 

      9 years ago from Olney

      Thank you...most useful...

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting to find out the differences. Thank you for the information.


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