What's the difference between colds and the flu? A typical cold causes a runny nose (the discharge is usually clear, but it could be yellow or green in the mornings), body aches, coughing, and sometimes a mild fever (usually for the first 3 to 4 days). By day four or five, you should be well on your way to recovery.
Colds and flu are both caused by viruses, not bacteria, so it's really just time that will make them go away. That said, both ailments can morph into more serious conditions, including sinus infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, and strep throat.
How to tell? Go to the clinic if you have sinus pressure or pain, a persistent or worsening sore throat, a deep cough that's making you hack up yellow or green phlegm (all day, not just mornings), fast or difficult breathing, ear pain, or a high fever. If you think you have the flu -- and it's diagnosed quickly enough -- a health care provider can give you an antiviral drug to help ease symptoms faster.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of " WebMD the Magazine."