Is it the Flu or Just a Cold? How to Tell the Difference

flu vs cold

As we near the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer, cold and flu season seems far behind us. Time goes fast, though, and soon that time will be on us again.

One of the most common questions asked during cold and flu season is how to tell the difference? What should we know when it comes to flu vs cold?

It may not seem like it, but there are a few noticeable differences, and we’ll talk more about them in the paragraphs below.

Cold and Flu: Why Are They so Similar?

The whole confusion of flu vs cold comes from how alike they seem to be. They share some symptoms, are active at the same time, and they’re both viruses.

It’s this last item that bears much of the responsibility. Not only are influenza and the common cold both viruses, they’re both respiratory viruses. 

Since they both attack our lungs and airways, they will present in many of the same ways. There are a few ways to tell whether you have a cold or flu.

1. Flu is Sudden

While cold symptoms develop over the course of a few days, flu symptoms begin much faster, often over the course of a few hours.

While both illnesses will last about one week, the flu tends to start out with more intense symptoms and stay at the same level throughout the whole week. Meanwhile, a cold might start out mild and get worse as it goes on. 

2. Flu is More Severe

While the flu and a cold share some symptoms, the flu has some that are more debilitating. For instance, while you may run a fever with both a cold and flu, it will be much lower with a cold.

The flu, meanwhile, tends to come with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Farenheit.

Another difference is that aches and pains aren’t common with a cold, but the flu usually has them. You’re also likely to have more chills and less energy.

Flu may also expose you to pneumonia, infections, and other conditions. In rare cases, this can be fatal, but the majority of victims are senior citizens, children, and others with weak or compromised immune symptoms. 

On the bright side, a stuffy nose and sore throat don’t show up in most cases of flu.

3. Flu is Preventable

Flu may be a lot worse overall, but it’s more preventable than flu. In most cases, flu can be prevented by getting a flu vaccine.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to get a flu vaccine every year. Viruses and other cells don’t live very long, and they reproduce quickly. The end result is that they evolve quickly.

By the time next year rolls around, the flu vaccine from this year will be outdated and ineffective because the virus will evolve to resist it. To create that year’s vaccine, doctors get a sample of that year’s flu and introduce it to the body in a small dose so that the body can learn to fight it off.

Flu vs Cold: What’s the Difference?

How do you tell the difference between flu vs cold? There are a few different ways.

If the symptoms come on in less than a day, it’s probably flu. Also, the symptoms will be a lot worse with the flu. Look for higher fevers, more chills, and worse aches.

Above all, get a flu shot. It will, at the very least, lower your chances of getting the flu so you don’t have to worry as much.

If you want to know more about medicine or want medical advice, please visit our site. We can tell you why you should get a physical every year.