Is It a Cold or the Flu?

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

Symptoms

ColdFlu 
FeverRare in adults and older children, but can be as high as 102 degrees F in infants and small childrenUsually 102 degrees F, but can go up to 104 and usually lasts 3 days
HeadacheRare

Sudden onset and can be severe

Muscle achesMildUsual, and often severe

Tiredness
and weakness

MildCan last two or more weeks
Extreme exhaustionNeverSudden onset and can be severe
Runny noseOftenSometimes
SneezingOftenSometimes
Sore throatOftenSometimes
CoughMild hacking coughUsual, and can be severe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 
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