cold or flu

Cold or Flu: How to spot the difference

Viruses cause colds and the flu. Both are respiratory infections. The simplest way to tell the difference is by looking at your symptoms.

If you have a cold, you’ll probably have symptoms like these:

runny or stuffy nose

Flu symptoms can include:

  • dry, hacking cough
  • moderate to high fever, although not everyone with the flu will run a fever
  • sore throat
  • shaking chills
  • severe muscle or body aches 
  • headache
  • stuffy and runny nose
  • severe fatigue that may last up to two weeks 
  • nausea and vomiting (most common in children)

Colds come on gradually over a few days and are often milder than the flu. They usually get better in 7 to 10 days, although symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks. 

Flu symptoms come on quickly and can be severe. They usually last 1 to 2 weeks. Use your symptoms as a guide to figure out which condition you have. If you think you might have the flu, see your doctor to get tested within the first 48 hours of showing symptoms.