This Article is From Dec 06, 2018

How To Differentiate Between Pneumonia And Flu? Explained By Expert

Flu and pneumonia cause similar symptoms. But there are a few indicators that can help in identifying the difference. Read here to know how you can differentiate between pneumonia and flu.

How To Differentiate Between Pneumonia And Flu? Explained By Expert

Pneumonia causes more severe symptoms than flu


  • Flu causes cough, cold and fever
  • Pneumonia causes dark coloured phlegm along with some blood
  • Symptoms of flu arrive more quickly than pneumonia

Falling sick is probably one of the most unpleasant feelings. It makes a person feel helpless and weak to perform daily chores of life. This is especially when you are suffering from pneumonia or flu. However, it is a tad bit difficult to identify the difference between the two as they cause similar symptoms like cough or fever. And while diseases like pneumonia and flu are more common during this time of the year, we try and identify the difference between the two.

How to differentiate between pneumonia and flu?

Dr Gita Prakash says that pneumonia is a more severe form of flu. "Flu is cough, cold and fever. When the congestion caused by these conditions gets into the chest, it becomes pneumonia. Fever and other symptoms are higher and more prominent in case of pneumonia," she says.

Symptoms like muscle aches and pains are more commonly the case with flu. Flu also tends to cause sore throat, stuffy nose, vomiting, diarrhoea and coughing.

Also read: Protein Found To Reduce Flu Symptoms, Death Risk

Flu virus can cause pneumonia. Secretions from stuffy nose and dehydration create an environment where bacteria can multiply too fast for your body to be able to protect itself from bacterial pneumonia.

Cough on the other hand, is also a major symptom of pneumonia. However, the cough in case of pneumonia is different from flu. Pneumonia cough will also cause dark coloured phlegm which may even contain blood. Respiratory symptoms are common with pneumonia, including difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath.


Pneumonia is more severe than flu
Photo Credit: iStock

Severity of symptoms in flu and pneumonia

In case of flu, the symptoms arrive suddenly. Stuffy nose, sore throat, fever and muscle aches all happen so suddenly that you can pinpoint the exact moment when you began to experience them.

Pneumonia happens slowly, with symptoms getting sever over a period of several days.

Also read: What Is The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu?

Doctors diagnose by either listening to lungs or taking a chest x-ray which can reveal signs of pneumonia. The nasal swab test can determine if a person is infected with a flu virus. As part of initial treatment, doctors usually prescribe antiviral medications to make the symptoms less severe.

It is important to know that these antiviral medications are effective only if they are taken within a day or two of the onset of symptoms. Moreover, these medications are likely to have side effects like nausea, dizziness, diarrhoea and vomiting.

For both flu and pneumonia, doctors recommend taking a lot of rest, drinking lots of fluids and managing symptoms with over-the-counter medications.

Also read: What To Eat When You Have A Cold And Flu - Celebrity Nutritionist Nmami Suggests

The best way to protect yourself from flu and pneumonia is by getting vaccinations. There are chances that you get flu even after getting a vaccination, but the symptoms are going to be much less severe, along with the duration of the infection.

Take extra precaution for saving yourself from pneumonia and flu by washing your hands regularly. Make sure you clean your indoors with proper disinfectants.

(Dr. Gita Prakash is a Family Physician at Max Multi Speciality Hospital, Panchsheel Park.)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.