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Flu vs Cold: Which One Is It?

Flu vs Cold: Which One Is It?

The cold and flu are similar in some ways, but they can also easily be confused. When it comes to knowing the difference, you must be aware of flu symptoms vs cold.


If you have the flu, it’s a much bigger threat to your health and well-being, which is why you need to know the differences so you can spot them and get the medical attention you need.
Read on to learn more about cold and flu symptoms and what distinguishes them so you can be prepared for whatever comes your way.

The commom cold

Almost everyone has had a cold at some point in their life, and it doesn’t matter whether you live in a warm or cool climate. The average human will have plenty of colds throughout their lifetime that can start in infancy and continue sporadically into old age.

While most people can fight off a cold with proper rest and some over-the-counter medication, those with a weakened immune system are at risk of more serious problems. If you have a compromised immune system, a cold can contribute to pneumonia if it goes untreated.

To avoid catching a cold or spreading it to others, wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Always sneeze directly into a tissue or your elbow so you’re not allowing germs to spread into the air. The cold germs cannot live on surfaces or clothing, but they can live on the skin.

The flu and colds are caused by various viruses. The rhinovirus is the most common cause of colds. While each illness is serious, the flu can be life-threatening, and symptoms can come on fast and unexpectedly.

Flu basics

The flu virus comes in three different types: influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C, and each virus have some key differences. Influenza A and B are typically responsible for the seasonal epidemics you hear about on the news.

Not everyone who gets the flu will need to seek emergency medical treatment. The elderly, young children and people with a compromised immune system are at the greatest risk of serious health complications.

You can treat some common flu symptoms with over-the-counter medications made to reduce fever. These medicines can be purchased at any drugstore without a prescription.

If the flu is more serious, your doctor may prescribe you antiviral flu drugs. These drugs are usually given to people who at a higher risk of complications as a result of the flu. However, antivirals are not necessary for most people as a form of treatment.

You may try a few home remedies to alleviate your flu symptoms, such as inhaling steam and eating foods like warm chicken noodle soup. Try to stay warm, and get plenty of rest until the symptoms are gone. Avoid physical exertion when you have the flu.

People in a higher risk group like infants, people over age 65, and pregnant women may be given antiviral medication. For most, the flu is just something they have to fight through until the body’s immune system kills the virus.

Key Differences: Flu Symptoms vs Cold

While some symptoms of the flu and cold are similar, they present themselves in different ways. For example, cold symptoms are gradual, while flu symptoms can come on abruptly and when you least expect them to.

If you have a cold, it is rarely accompanied by a fever. However, the flu is presented with a high fever and is one of the most important symptoms to look for. If your fever is extremely high or does not break, you should visit a healthcare professional immediately.
Headaches are also rare for those suffering from a cold, but headaches can easily be confused with sinus congestion or a sinus infection. Those suffering from the flu will experience a headache that can be extremely painful and long-lasting.

A cold generally will not result in significant health problems. If you have the flu, it could lead to something much more serious like pneumonia, coma, or even death.

Other complications that can be triggered by flu are inflammation of the heart or brain, inflammation of the respiratory tract, or it may trigger asthma attacks. Those with chronic heart disease may also experience stronger symptoms and problems if they have the flu.

Cold Symptoms

The common cold is just that: extremely common and low-risk. Some symptoms of a cold include a stuffy nose, a runny nose, or coughing. While coughing is part of having a cold, you should still seek medical attention if the cough gets worse or persists for a week or more.

Other things to remember with fly symptoms vs cold is that a cold is not typically presented with a fever. If you have a lasting fever, you may want to be checked to rule out the flu.

Many people experience body aches and pains when they have a cold, and may deal with constant feelings of tiredness. Fatigue is also common, and it can often be explained due to the lack of sleep associated when you’re up coughing or sneezing all night.

You may also experience a mild sore throat if you have a cold. This is due to the classic annoying nasal drip that can irritate the throat. It may also be due to having to breathe in through the mouth, which leads to dryness of the throat.

Most people won’t need to see a doctor if they have a cold. However, very young children or infants may need medical treatment under certain conditions.

Children and Colds

If you have a newborn up to 12 weeks old and they have a fever of 100.4 F or higher, take them to their pediatrician right away. For children of any age, a rising fever or a fever that lasts longer than two days should also be treated or diagnosed.

Children who have symptoms that fail to improve or get worse should seek medical treatment. And, if your child’s symptoms are severe like a painful headache or unrelenting cough, you may want to visit your doctor. Wheezing, ear pain, and lack of appetite are other serious symptoms to be on the lookout for.

It’s important to note that adults and children can contact a cold at any time of the year. However, most people cope with colds during the autumn and winter months.

The Flu: Know the Symptoms

As you compare the symptoms of flu vs cold, a fever is one of the most important things to look out for. A high fever or one that stays for longer than a day could mean that you have the flu instead of the common cold. Not everyone who has the flu will also have a fever, however.
If you’re feeling feverish or have the chills, you may have the flu. Other symptoms include persistent cough, a sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. You may also feel muscle or body aches, which is an indication of the flu.
Headaches and tiredness are other common flu symptoms. Many people who have the flu experience long-lasting fatigue and may sleep a lot longer than they normally would.
Vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes associated with the flu. These symptoms tend to be more common in children than they are in adults.

When to Be Concerned About the Flu

Many people who get the flu, recover without the need for a doctor’s visit or hospital stay. However, some people can suffer serious symptoms that can be cause for alarm.
For children, fast breathing or feeling shortness of breath is one red flag. Other things to look out for in children include severe muscle pain (your child cannot walk), dehydration, and loss of alertness when the child is awake. If your child presents bluish lips or face, seek medical help immediately.


The flu also affects adults, and it can also have dire consequences. Some examples of severe symptoms include failure to urinate, which may indicate dehydration. If you feel extremely weak or unsteady on your feet, this could be a sign of an underlying problem, so see a doctor right away.


Another emergency symptom of the flu in adults is persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen. For adults with a chronic health condition, the condition may become worse if they have the flu. Always seek treatment if you’re concerned about any symptoms you may experience after being diagnosed with the flu.

Get to Know These Viruses

Once you’re more familiar with flu symptoms vs cold symptoms, it’s easier to spot the differences. Most people who deal with the common cold won’t have a fever, while those with the flu will.
Pay close attention to young children and elderly loved ones, as these two groups are the most vulnerable to flu-related health complications.

After reading this article, you should be prepared to know the main differences between The Flu symptoms vs Cold. For more exclusive content, subscribe to our newsletter!

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