Flu vs. Cold, and Why You Need to Know the Difference

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

Flu season is well underway, and if you haven’t contracted the flu yet this year, you should consider yourself lucky! Most of us know the basics of flu prevention (thorough hand washing, getting vaccinated whether or not you’re in a high-risk group, etc.), but many of us remain woefully unaware of how to tell the difference between the common cold and influenza. While they have similar symptoms, the distinction is hugely important, because the flu can lead to severe and even fatal complications in at-risk individuals. Read on to learn how to tell the difference.

Cold vs Flu - How to tell if you have a cold, flu, swine flu etc.

You Might Have the Flu If…

You have the following symptoms, according to flu.gov:

  • A fever of over 100°F (37.8°C), chills, or a feverish feeling
  • Body aches, headache, and fatigue
  • Sore throat and/or cough
  • Stuffy and/or runny nose
  • In children, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Flu symptoms can start to subside in as little as two to five days, but you’re more likely to be out of commission for at least a week, and up to two weeks. Generally, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms; while you might be able to make yourself get out of bed and go to work with a cold, you’re more likely to be stuck watching reruns on the couch with extreme exhaustion and aching muscles when you have the flu.

You Might Just Have a Cold If…

Cold symptoms are generally milder than flu symptoms. They include:

  • Sore throat that lasts one to two days
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion
  • Post-nasal drip related cough
  • Slight fever, especially in children

Your symptoms are likely to get better within five days to a week, unless your cold is complicated by a bacterial infection or sinusitis.