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Do You Have a Cold or Flu?

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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.




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


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


Good hygieneGood hygiene and an annual flu shot or FluMist


relief of symptoms
Antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu),
zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab)
within 24-48 hours of onset


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 08, 2015
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