Cold vs. Flu: What is the Difference? - Explained by ColdFix Health Expert
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Cold vs. Flu: What is the Difference?

You wake up one morning with a scratchy throat, runny nose, fever, and feeling kind of like you were run over by a car. You first thought is, So this is how it’s going to end. But in reality it could just be a common cold, or possibly the flu, which is more severe. Even though both can have you feeling miserable, here’s how to tell the difference.

Different But the Same

Even though the terms cold and flu are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two different ailments. A cold can leave you feeling terrible, for sure, but is a milder respiratory illness as compared to the flu. A cold usually lasts about a week, but the flu can last over a week and the symptoms are more severe. The flu can also cause pneumonia and result in a hospital stay, especially for the very young or elderly. Colds can occur at any time of the year, but are more common in the winter months. Flu viruses most often occurring during ‘flu season’, which runs from late fall to early spring.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold, and it subsides after a day or two. Nasal symptoms, like a runny or stuffy nose can last longer and leave you with a red, irritated nose that resembles Rudolph. Mucus becomes darker and thicker as the cold progresses. A cough usually appears later. While children might present a fever with a cold, a cold rarely produces a temperature over 101 degrees in adults. If the cold symptoms do not improve after a week, it might be allergies or sinusitis.

It’s a Knockout!

The flu hits harder and faster than a cold does. Full-blown influenza can make you feel like you have been KO’d in a boxing match, with symptoms that include sore throat, fever, head pain, body aches, chills, congestion and a cough. The flu symptoms usually improve after a few days but it is not uncommon for them to linger well beyond a week. The flu is caused by influenza A, B, and C viruses, which have active strains that vary year-to-year. That’s why a flu vaccine is required every year. This handy chart from can help you determine which illness you have so you can treat it properly:

Symptoms Cold Flu

Fever Sometimes, usually mild Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days

  • A headache Occasionally Common
  • General Aches,
  • Pains Slight Usual; often severe
  • Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
  • Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
  • Sneezing Usual Sometimes
  • Sore Throat Common Sometimes
  • Cough Mild to moderate; a hacking cough Common; can become severe

Many of the cold and flu symptoms are the same, and they are transmitted the same way as well. Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the nose, eyes, or mouth. When you touch an infected area, such as a doorknob, the virus gets transmitted to your hands. This is why washing your hands frequently is one of the best defenses against the cold and flu.

At the first sign of either illness, begin taking Cold-Fix to reduce the number of days you are ill, and to manage your symptoms.