Five Ways To Tell The Difference Between The Cold And The Flu

It's that time again: cold and flu season. It is incredibly important that you know how to tell the difference between cold and the flu to avoid serious health complications from developing. Both the cold and the flu are viral infections of the respiratory system, but the flu is far more serious. Keep reading to learn five ways to tell if you have the flu instead of the common cold this winter.


The most obvious symptom that you will experience when you have the flu instead of a cold is a fever. Colds typically cause you to run a fever, whereas the flu causes you to run a high fever and experience the chills. A high fever brings many complications with it, including dehydration, loss of appetite, and seizures.

Body Aches

As your body works to fight off a viral infection, white blood cells are produced to attack and eradicate the virus. Unfortunately, this results in inflammation. Because of this, you experience body aches. The common cold is a milder virus than the flu, so you may experience no body aches at all or very mild body aches. However, because the flu is a more serious infection, the body aches are more severe and are often felt in the muscles and joints.


You do not normally have a headache with the cold, but you do with the flu. In some cases, the headache is a result of the high fever. The headache may also be a result of the inflammation caused by your immune system attacking the virus. Either way, your headache can usually be treated with over-the-counter medicines.  


While you will often have fatigue with both the common cold and the flu, the flu will cause you to experience severe fatigue over several days. The fatigue is a result of your body fighting off the virus, leaving you drained of your energy.

Chest Congestion

Another symptom that you can keep an eye out for is chest congestion. As a general rule, congestion will occur in your nose and throat when you have a cold. However, when you have the flu, you will have congestion in the chest. It is important to seek medical attention when the chest congestion is serious, you have trouble breathing, or you have chest pain, as it can end up leading to the development of pneumonia.

When over-the-counter medications don't seem to be taking care of your symptoms, contact a medical clinic to schedule an examination.