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Difference Between Cold & Flu Symptoms

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Is it a cold or the flu?

Here are the sign and symptoms to help you distinguish flu symptoms from other respiratory illnesses like the common cold:

Signs and symptoms

Cold

Flu

Fever

Fever is rare with a cold.

Fever is usually present with the flu in up to 80% of all flu cases. A temperature of 100°F or higher for 3 to 4 days is associated with the flu.

Coughing

A hacking, productive (mucus- producing) cough is often present with a cold.

A non-productive (non-mucus producing) cough is usually present with the flu (sometimes referred to as dry cough).

Aches

Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold.

Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.

Stuffy Nose

Stuffy nose is commonly present with a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week.

Stuffy nose is not commonly present with the flu.

Chills

Chills are uncommon with a cold.

60% of people who have the flu experience chills.

Tiredness

Tiredness is fairly mild with a cold.

Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu.

Sneezing

Sneezing is commonly present with a cold.

Sneezing is not common with the flu.

Sudden Symptoms

Cold symptoms tend to develop over a few days.

The flu has a rapid onset within 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains.

Headache

A headache is fairly uncommon with a cold.

A headache is very common with the flu, present in 80% of flu cases.

Sore Throat

Sore throat is commonly present with a cold.

Sore throat may be present with the  flu.

Chest Discomfort

Chest discomfort is mild to moderate with a cold.

Chest discomfort is often severe with the flu.