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Do You Have a Cold or Flu?

Feeling under the weather? Are you wondering whether you are sick with a flu or a cold?

Because flu symptoms are quite similar to cold symptoms, it's often hard to tell the difference. But there is one clue about flu that can help you know. When you have the flu, you feel flu symptoms sooner than you would cold symptoms, and they come on with much greater intensity.

What Are the Symptoms of the Flu?

With the flu, you may feel very weak and fatigued for up to two or three weeks. You'll have muscle aches and periods of chills and sweats as fever comes and goes. You may also have a stuffy or runny nose, headache, and sore throat.

Can I Compare Flu and Cold Symptoms?

Yes. The following chart can help you compare flu symptoms with cold symptoms. Use it to learn the differences and similarities between flu and cold symptoms. Then, if you get flu symptoms, call your doctor and ask about an antiviral drug.

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

FeverRareCharacteristic, high
(100-102 degrees F); lasts three to four days
HeadacheRareProminent
General Aches, PainsSlightUsual; often severe
Fatigue, WeaknessQuite mildCan last up to two to three weeks
Extreme ExhaustionNeverEarly and prominent
Stuffy NoseCommonSometimes
SneezingUsualSometimes
Sore ThroatCommonSometimes
Chest Discomfort,
Cough
Mild to moderate;
hacking cough
Common; can become severe

Complications

Sinus congestion
or earache
Bronchitis, pneumonia;
can be life-threatening

Prevention

Good hygieneAnnual flu shot or FluMist

Treatment

Only
temporary
relief of symptoms
Antiviral drugs (Tamiflu or
or Relenza) within 24-48 hours
of onset

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on November 18, 2013
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