Do You Have a Cold or Flu?

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on May 16, 2023
2 min read

Do you feel under the weather and wonder if you're sick with the flu or a cold?

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

You may feel very weak and tired for up to 2 or 3 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.

This chart can help you see the differences and similarities. Then, if you get flu symptoms, call your doctor and ask about an antiviral drug.




FeverRareCharacteristic, high
(100-102 degrees F); lasts 3 to 4 days
General Aches, PainsSlightUsual; often severe
Fatigue, WeaknessQuite mildCan last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme ExhaustionRareEarly 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 vaccine


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