Is the Flu viral or Bacterial?

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


An infection is a disease that is caused by a germ or microbe. Viruses are smaller than bacteria and can only infect living cells. Bacteria are larger than viruses and can infect both living cells and non-living things such as dirt.

Viruses are tiny infectious agents that can cause illness through direct contact with mucous membranes (like the eyes). If you have a viral infection, you may feel like you have a bad cold or flu. You may also experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, and a fever.

Viral infections are usually caused by viruses that infect your respiratory system. They can also occur in other body systems, such as your mouth or skin.

If you have a sore throat, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor. Strep throat and strep pneumonia are both bacterial infections, but if your symptoms include fever, headache, and a sore throat, they could be indicative of a viral infection.

Viruses can be spread through saliva or mucus. So if you have those symptoms, consider visiting your doctor to see what’s happening!

Flu, what is it?

The flu is viral, which means it’s spread from one person to another through direct contact with respiratory secretions. You can get the flu by coughing or sneezing on someone who has it. It’s also possible to get the flu by touching something that has flu germs on it, like a tissue or your sleeve.

The flu can last for up to three weeks if you’ve had it before. You may feel tired and have a fever for about a week after you’ve been exposed to the virus.

There are also some strains of the flu that are resistant to antibiotics, so you might need an antibiotic if your doctor prescribes one for your symptoms of the flu. It is an infection that can be passed from one person to the next by droplets of saliva, sweat, or mucus that contain the virus particles. It’s most common in children and young adults who are not immune to the virus (the flu).

People get the flu from others at work, school, or other public places where they’re exposed to large numbers of people.

The flu isn’t contagious until you start getting sick. Flu viruses are widespread in our environment and people get them all year long. They pass between people just like viruses do!

If you’re sick with the flu and someone sneezes on you (or touches your face), it could make you sick because the virus is on their skin particles, and those particles can go into your eyes or nose and then make you very sick!

The best way to prevent getting sick with the flu is to stay home from school or work if you’re sick with fever and cough symptoms for 2 days.

Risk Factors

People at risk of getting viral infections:

  • The elderly
  • People who are sick and bedbound
  • Children under the age of 5
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Pregnancy
  • Obese (BMI of more than 40 kg/m-2)
  • People with chronic diseases (diabetes, hypertension)
  • People who are living in elderly homes

Flu Symptoms

These symptoms are generally mild and last about a week. They can be listed as

  • Fever and body aches ( 101 F or more)
  • Cough, congestion, and sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscleaches
  • Body aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

GI symptoms: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

The course of the viral flu may last 7 days. Patients are infected in the incubation period (1–2 days) and in the symptomatic period.

Is there a Distinction between Viral and Bacterial Infections?

Viral infections are a common occurrence in our society. They can affect anyone, and the virus itself is highly contagious.

The most common viral infection is the flu. According to the CDC, there were over 110 million cases of the flu reported in 2017 alone. This means that more than one-third of Americans aged 6 months or older had at least one bout of sickness during that year!

The people infected with viruses than bacterial infections. They can be spread through contact with infected people or animals, and they do not require a living host to reproduce.

Viruses are spread by direct contact with the virus and can also be spread by indirect contact with an object that has been contaminated with infected bodily fluids.

Bacteria can only propagate if they have a living host in which to grow. Bacteria are carried in the air, on your skin, or on items that you touch.

  • The treatment for viral infections is usually antiviral medication and supportive care (medication to help you manage your symptoms).
  • The treatment for bacterial infections depends on what kind of bacteria it is (and what type of antibiotics is available in your area). In most cases, this means taking a specific antibiotic for an appropriate length of time.

How to Identify the Flu from a Cold?

Symptoms/character Common Cold Flu
Virus type Rhinovirus, enterovirus, parainfluenza, etc. Influenza types A and B
Symptom onset Sub-acute onset (symptoms start slowly, first a sore throat, then a runny nose) acute onset of symptoms of fever, malaise, and body aches.
Fever Mild fever/ No fever at all. High fever with a chill and rigors
Severity It goes away in 7-10 days with no impact on work. It resolves in 14 or more days and has a high severity.
Symptoms Sore throats, runny noses, and nasal congestion appear most Fever and body aches are more common. Nasal symptoms are mild.
Duration of illness 7 -10 days 14 days or more


Home Remedies for Flu

If you are sick, you probably want to do everything you can to get better. While there are a lot of different ways to treat your flu symptoms, there are also a lot of different ways to treat the flu virus itself.

Flu season is in full swing, and you know what that means: time to get your flu shots. But there are a lot of other ways to prevent and treat the common cold, too. Here are some of our favorite flu treatments and remedies:

Vitamin C

One way is by taking over-the-counter remedies or vitamins that contain vitamin C. This can help boost your immunity and protect you from getting sick again. You can take between 500 mg and 1000 mg of vitamin C daily.

The vitamin C in oranges has been shown to help fight off the flu and other illnesses.

Ginger Root

Ginger has been used for centuries to treat sore throats and colds, and it contains antiviral properties that can help you fight off the flu.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a common remedy for colds and flu, and it also helps reduce inflammation in your body, which can help you feel better during a bout with the flu.


This contains allicin, an antiviral compound that helps fight off viruses like the flu. In addition to being delicious, garlic is also one of the most powerful natural antimicrobials available!


This is another great home remedy for fighting off the flu since it contains antioxidants that boost your immune system’s ability to fight off viruses like the cold or flu virus.

Drink Plenty of Water!

Fluids help keep your body running smoothly and make sure your lungs are working at their best when fighting off any illness. Drink 16 ounces of water every hour or more during the day if possible.

Get Enough Rest

Resting will help your immune system work efficiently.

Nasal Congestion and Throat Pain

Use vapor rub for nasal congestion or essential oils. Throat lozenges and cough drops will help with sore throats.

Suck on cough drops for throat pain or cough. Take warm baths or use them for achy joints and muscles.

Zn lozenges

These are known to help the immune system if they are taken within the first 48 hours.

Hot Compression

Warm compresses or baths will help to relieve neck tension and muscle aches.

Avoid Smoking

The smoke will damage the primary defense system in the respiratory system.

Medications for Flu


Another way to treat the flu is with antiviral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza. These medications have been proven effective in treating the influenza virus and reducing the duration of illness when taken as directed by a doctor during an outbreak or pandemic.

Flu Shot

You can take an influenza vaccine two weeks after symptoms have subsided. The flu vaccine will protect you from other flu viral strains. You can get an annual flu shot near the start of the flu season, which is from October to February.

When to See the Doctor

You may also want to consider seeing a medical professional if your symptoms get worse instead of improving after taking either over-the-counter treatments or antiviral medications for more than two weeks without improvement in symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, cough, and sore throat.

If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, a severe headache, or persistent vomiting, you should seek medical attention.


TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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