Cold vs Flu: How to Tell the Difference

One of the most dreaded illnesses of the winter season is the flu. Often leaving victims in bed for days, the flu affects millions of people every year. And this year, flu season got off to a strong and nasty start. But people commonly mistake the flu for a common cold and vice versa. Because of that, this article is going to discuss how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.


The flu and a cold are both respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. Their symptoms often overlap, but generally, the flu is much more severe than a common cold. If you think you may have the flu, it's important to get to the doctor as quickly as possible in order to start fighting the virus right away.

The flu can come with unpleasant symptoms like a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, and extreme fatigue. While colds may have some of these same symptoms, they're milder. A cold may last about seven to 10 days while the flu lasts about a week.

Another key difference between a cold and the flu is how quickly symptoms start to show. With a cold, your symptoms will gradually get worse over a few days. But with the flu, you can to go from feeling fine to feeling extremely ill in a few hours. So it's important to be aware of how quickly your symptoms begin to show.

So what should you do if you come down with a cold or the flu? Unfortunately, there's no magic cure for these illnesses. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get plenty of rest. Your body needs time to fight off the illness so it's important to give it time to do that. Additionally, if you're sick you should stay home from work or school. Spreading your illness to those around you is only going to make matters worse.

However, with the flu season being particularly bad this year, it's important to visit an urgent care clinic if you're experiencing flu-like symptoms. There are flu medications that can lessen the severity of the illness, but they must be administered shortly after symptoms start showing.

Additionally, you should seek care at a medical clinic if you're experiencing any chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, dehydration, or a fever lasting more than 48 hours. Ask the doctors about flu treatment options if your symptoms are fairly recent.

Having the flu or a cold is never fun. Fortunately, there are about 20,000 qualified physicians practicing Urgent Care Medicine at clinics throughout the country who are available to provide the medical attention you need.