Knowing the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu

Both cold and flu are rampant during winter, so how can you tell which one you may be suffering with? It’s important to know the difference so you can address the sickness properly. Here are a few basics to help you discern between the two ailments.



Flu is typically accompanied by fever, muscle aches, fatigue, tightness of the chest and chills. While the flu can often be managed at home, signs that you may need medical treatment for your flu include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • High fever
  • Dizziness
  • Severe vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • While some cases of the flu dissipate in less than a week, more severe cases can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia if left untreated.


Unlike the flu, symptoms of colds are primarily manifested from the neck up, so you will not usually experience the fever/chills or the muscle aches that attend flu. Cold symptoms include congestion, cough, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, and watery eyes.

Unfortunately, a cold is a result of a virus, so there’s no treatment. Rest and hydration are often the best medicine. Healthy eating can help, too. Wash your hands thoroughly to minimize your chance of catching a cold. Vitamin C has been shown to have a minimal effect on cold prevention but a nominal effect on cold treatment.

Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and decongestants may temporarily relieve symptoms of both cold and flu, but be wary of potential side effects such as disrupting sleep patterns. Cough suppressants can be taken if the cough is severe enough. Note that cough and cold medications are not recommended for children under age 4.