Flu vs Cold: What’s the Difference?

flu vs cold


It’s time to stock up on tissues and chicken noodle soup. As the weather starts to cool, flu and cold season are blowing in, too.

Regardless of the season, people get sick year-round. The common cold is often the top reason kids miss school. While adults get a cold two to three times a year, children get sick even more.

So how do you fell the difference between the flu vs cold?

While the symptoms overlap, there are a few ways to determine the difference. Keep reading to find out how to tell the difference before seeking help.

Flu vs Cold: Which Is It?

While they’re both respiratory diseases, the flu is caused by a different virus than a cold.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to diagnose the flu vs cold based on the symptoms. Many of the symptoms overlap, such as sniffling and sneezing. However, the severity of the symptoms can help set the two apart.

Common Flu Symptoms

Generally, flu symptoms are more intense than cold symptoms.

One of the first ways to tell you have the flu vs cold is your body temperature. While you’re likely to have a high fever (100 to 104°F) with the flu, developing a fever with a cold is rare.

Headaches are common if you have the flu. Other flu symptoms include:

  • General aches and pains
  • Fatigue and weakness (which can last two to three weeks)
  • Exhaustion (often during the initial period)
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort

The flu is often connected with complications, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

Common Cold Symptoms

Cold symptoms, on the other hand, are milder. These symptoms will usually last for a week.

Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sneezing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Hacking cough
  • Slight aches and pains

Fevers and headaches are rare with a cold. It’s more likely you’ll develop a sore throat during the first few days.

A cold won’t usually result in a serious health issue.

Seeing a Doctor

It’s important you visit an urgent care clinic if:

  • Your fever lasts longer than three days (indicating a bacterial infection)
  • You experience pain when swallowing (possibly indicating strep throat)
  • You’re battling a persistent cough
  • You develop headaches or persistent congestion

In some cases, you’ll need immediate medical attention. Call for help if you experience:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headaches
  • Severe chest pain

For children, signs of an emergency include:

  • Bluish skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A fever accompanied by a rash
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Symptoms that improve, then worsen

Make sure to visit a clinic if you notice these symptoms.

Diagnosing the Difference: Flu vs. Cold Symptoms

Have you diagnosed the difference? Now that you know the difference between a flu vs. cold, you can determine if it’s time to receive the urgent care you need. In the meantime, make sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.

Looking for an urgent care center nearby? Contact us today or visit us for the help you need.