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Cold vs. Flu: What’s the Difference in Symptoms?

cold vs flu

The common cold and the flu (influenza) both have similar symptoms, and many people do not know the differences. While they are both respiratory infections, they are caused by different viruses. Generally, flu symptoms are more severe, occur abruptly, and last for 1-2 weeks. The flu can also lead to possible complications, like pneumonia, and may require hospitalization. A common cold is comparatively milder and is unlikely to lead to complications. Here’s information on cold vs flu to help you better understand the signs, symptoms, and treatments.

Cold vs Flu Symptoms: How to Spot the Difference

Despite the similarities in the symptoms, there are some key differences between cold and flu that you might be able to spot.

If you have a common cold, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headache or body ache
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sore throat and sneezing

The flu can cause the following symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Stuffy/ runny nose
  • Severe body ache and fatigue
  • Fever (occasionally)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

Flu vs. Cold Symptom Chart

SymptomsFluCold
FeverHigh temperature (100-102’F, lasting for 3-4 daysOccasional – mild
HeadacheCommonInfrequent
CoughDry cough, can be severeHacking cough
Sore throatOccasionally Common
SneezingSometimesCommon
Fatigue and weaknessCommon, can last for 2-3 weeksOccasional – mild
Stuffy NoseSometimes Common
Chest discomfort CommonOccasional – mild
Muscle achesCommonOccasional – mild
Extreme exhaustionCommon, starts with the onset of the illnessNever

How Long Do Cold Symptoms Last?

A common cold typically begins with a sore throat that lasts for 1-2 days, followed by a cough, congestion, and a runny nose over the next 2-3 days. In adults, these symptoms might be accompanied by a mild fever. You are contagious in the initial 2-3 days of infection, so it is recommended you stay home and get plenty of rest.

Also read: How Weather Affects Allergies: Causes, Diagnosis & Precautions

How to Protect Yourself from Flu and Common Cold

Take the following precautions to safeguard yourself from cold and flu:

  • Get an annual flu shot
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Always cough or sneeze into a tissue
  • If you’re sick, stay indoors or at home
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before meals
  • Maintain a safe distance from others who are ill
  • Get adequate sleep, reduce stress, and stay active
  • Drink lots of water and fluids
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently when someone is sick

Stay Safe & Get the Flu Vaccine

Get your flu shot every year to avoid contracting influenza. Flu vaccination is completely safe and effective. It is recommended that everyone older than 6 months of age get a flu vaccine, and the best times to get the vaccine are during the months of September and October.

If you have any questions related to the difference between cold and flu, please get in touch with us at MI Express Care. We are currently offering $25 flu shots, so get yours now to make sure you are protected this flu season. Schedule an appointment with us today!

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