How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

Sometimes you feel like you have a cold when you have the flu; other times the case is vice versa. But how can you really tell? Nisita® created this table to help you identify whether you, your child, or your family member has contracted the flu, or is just dealing with a common cold. Keep in mind that sometimes it is impossible to tell them apart based on symptoms alone, even a doctor will need to run tests.

Symptom Cold Flu
Fever Rare/Almost Never Common (lasts 3-4 days)
Achiness Slight Common and Severe
Chills None Common
Fatigue Rare Very Common
Sneezing Very Common Sometimes/Rare
Stuffy Nose Very Common Sometimes/Rare
Sore Throat Very Common Sometimes/Rare
Chest Discomfort Mild (can have hacking cough) Common and Severe
Headache Rare Common

It is important to know and be able to tell the difference between the two. A cold is a disease that primarily affects the nose, while the flu virus is an intense viral infection that attacks the upper and lower respiratory tract.

In addition to this, you can catch a cold anytime, regardless of what season it is; however, you are most likely to catch it during winter. On the other hand, flu season typically runs from November to March, but you can catch it as early as October and as late as May.

With these differences in mind, here are a few things to remember when dealing with a cold or the flu:

  1. Drink lots of fluids. Whether you have a cold or the flu, fluids help your body stay hydrated and healthy.
  2. Have plenty of rest! Your body is fighting off disease and resting allows your body to regenerate and have enough energy to fight it off.
  3. Visit your doctor to check if you need an antiviral medication.
  4. Flu is contagious, make sure to inform the people you are in contact with daily that you have the flu.

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