What Are Symptoms Of A Cold, And How Do They Differ From Symptoms Of The Flu?

Question: What are symptoms of a cold, and how do they differ from symptoms of the flu?

Answer: Well, that's a really important question because a lot of times people use the term "the flu" for every type of respiratory illness and that truly is not the case.

Click here for an interactive symptom check

A cold has mild symptoms. You usually do not have fever. And if you do have fever, it's a low-grade 100, 101. You have runny nose, cough, but they're mild. And you don't usually have severe body aches. You can usually continue your daily routine functions.

This is markedly different than the flu, which most often occurs in the time frame between November and March. It occurs in waves, so when flu is in the community, there are lots of people sick with the flu. And here you have high fevers, usually above 102 for 3-4 days.

You do have respiratory symptoms, sometimes you have also vomiting and diarrhea. And you feel terrible -- your body aches and it's very hard to continue your daily routine. Those are the most common differences. And one thing to be aware of is that while the flu can cause hospitalizations and deaths, that is not true of the common cold.

James Conway, M.D., Assoc. Professor of Pediatrics, Univ. of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
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Interactive: Symptom Check -- Is it a Cold or the Flu?

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