Cold vs. Flu: Ways You Can Spot the Difference

Woman Blowing Her Nose On Couch

Is it a cold or flu?

There are so many ways to describe your physical symptoms when you are sick to the doctor. Coughing, sneezing, shivering, hacking, wheezy dry cough, runny nose, and many more. While these all seem like ways to describe the common cold, it is important to spot the different signs between a cold and the seasonal flu.

Symptoms of Seasonal Flu

Influenza or also known as the common “flu” often hits fast and takes you by surprise. The flu begins with a sudden fever including other symptoms like chills, muscle aches, headaches, and tiredness. The important thing to understand is that with the flu you feel lousy and you feel lousy FAST. If you experience any of the fast symptoms included with a flu, contact your doctor right away to begin treatment as the flu can be dangerous if not treated properly and quickly.

Symptoms of Common Cold

The common cold, on the other hand, usually starts gradually and lasts much longer. It is important to understand that symptoms with a cold often creep up on you and can last anywhere from 2-3 weeks. Colds will rarely come with a significant fever, while the flu never fails with a fever of 100 degrees or higher for at least a few days.

This is a helpful chart that shows the difference in symptoms between the flu and cold:

Signs and Symptoms

Influenza

Common Cold

Onset

Sudden

Gradual

Fever

Temperature of 100 degrees and above for 3-4 days

Temperature less than 100 degrees

Cough

Dry, sometimes severe

Hacking

Headache

Prominent 

Rare

Muscle pain

Usual, often and severe

Uncommon or usually mild

Tiredness & weakness

Lasting about 2-3 weeks

Very mild and brief

Extreme exhaustion

Early & prominent

Never

Chest discomfort

Common

Uncommon or mild

Stuffy nose

Sometimes

Typical

Sneezing

Sometimes

Typical

Sore Throat

Sometimes

Common 

Treatment Options for the Flu

Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza are used to best treat cases of the flu which require a prescription and a treatment plan. These medications fight the flu by keeping the viruses from reproducing in your body and work best when started within 48 hours of your first symptoms.

At DOCS Urgent Care a variety of our convenient locations in Connecticut offer flu immunizations. Feel free to walk into one of our clinics today for a fast, wait-free way to get your flu shot. Find our more information about flu shots here.