A young girl with a cold, wondering what the difference is between a cold and the flu.


It is important to be able to tell the difference between a cold and the flu so that you can get the appropriate treatment. Colds and the flu are two of the most common illnesses in the United States. They are caused by different viruses and have different symptoms.


The most obvious difference between a cold and the flu is the severity of the symptoms. Colds typically cause mild symptoms that last for about a week. Flu symptoms, on the other hand, can be much more severe and can last for up to two weeks.

Other key differences between colds and the flu include:

  • Fever: Colds typically do not cause fever, or if they do, the fever is usually mild. Flu, on the other hand, often causes a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Cough: Colds can cause a cough, but the cough is usually mild and dry. Flu, on the other hand, can cause a more severe cough that is often productive, meaning that it produces mucus.
  • Sore throat: Colds can cause a sore throat, but the sore throat is usually mild. Flu, on the other hand, can cause a more severe sore throat that can be accompanied by difficulty swallowing.
  • Runny or stuffy nose: Colds can cause a runny or stuffy nose, but the congestion is usually mild. Flu, on the other hand, can cause more severe congestion that can make it difficult to breathe.
  • Muscle aches: Colds can cause muscle aches, but the aches are usually mild. Flu, on the other hand, can cause more severe muscle aches that can be accompanied by fatigue and weakness.

Other symptoms:

In addition to the symptoms listed above, colds and the flu can also cause other symptoms, such as:

  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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Signs and symptomsInfluenzaCold
FeverTemperature of 100°F and above, lasting 3-4 daysTemperature less than 100°F
CoughDry, sometimes severeHacking
Muscle painCommon, often severeUncommon or mild
Tiredness & weaknessLasting 2-3 weeksVery mild and brief
Extreme exhaustionEarly and prominentNever
Chest discomfortCommonUncommon or mild
Stuffy noseSometimesCommon
Sore throatSometimesCommon


There is no surefire way to prevent colds or the flu, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick. These include:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Get a flu shot every year


There is no cure for colds or the flu, but there are things you can do to relieve your symptoms. These include:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Use over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms

Home remedies

In addition to over-the-counter medications, there are also a number of home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of a cold or the flu. These include:

  • Chicken soup
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Using a humidifier
  • Taking a hot bath or shower

When to see a doctor

If your symptoms are severe or do not improve after a week, see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Swelling in your face or throat


Colds and the flu are both common illnesses, but there are some key differences between the two. By understanding the symptoms of each illness, you can better tell them apart and seek appropriate treatment.

More health tips:

The Color of Your Snot: A Housewife’s Perspective

Strep Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Sore Throats: A Common Ailment with a Variety of Causes and Treatments

Combating the Flu: A Guide to Swift Recovery

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Emma Garcia


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