How To Tell The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu

Colds and the flu are two of the most common illnesses in the United States. The vast majority of people have experienced one or both of these sicknesses at some point. Sometimes it can be tricky to tell which one you're suffering from because they share many of the same symptoms. This can be especially true in mild cases. However, it is important to know the difference between the two so you can seek proper treatment.

According to WebMD, a cold is a milder sickness than the flu. Symptoms from a cold will usually go away after a few days while the flu can last for a week or longer. The flu is also more likely to cause other health issues when left untreated, like pneumonia or hospitalization. A cold and the flu can both present similar symptoms early on. According to the CDC, fatigue and weakness can be felt from both illnesses. Sneezing and coughing can also occur with both, along with a sore throat and stuffy nose. However, one key difference between these similar symptoms is that cold symptoms usually come on gradually while flu symptoms often occur suddenly.

How cold symptoms differ from flu symptoms

There are some important distinguishing features between a cold and the flu, especially as each illness progresses. According to Medical News Today, a fever is rare with a cold but common with the flu. Headaches are also common with the flu, and may occur with a cold but will be milder. Body aches and chills are frequently seen in people with the flu but rarely seen in someone with a cold. Finally, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms of the flu but rarely occur during a cold.

Colds and the flu need to be treated differently. According to Healthline, most colds can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants, acetaminophen, and NSAIDs. If you have a cold, you should also drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest until your body fights off the infection. The common cold should clear up in seven to 10 days. In most cases of the flu, treatment can also be done at home. Over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers can help relieve symptoms while rest can help your body heal. It is important to drink plenty of fluids when you have the flu, especially if you experience vomiting and diarrhea, which can make you dehydrated. Severe cases of the flu may need to be treated in the hospital.