Difference between Cold and Flu

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The countdown has begun!
Winter is in for another long-haul. Ready yourself before our seasonal friends join us in our immunity muscles (muscles?!) training.

But before readying yourself, tell me about your most common seasonal companion.

Do you catch a cold over the winter or is it flu that grows with you?

Oh, maybe you have never considered this question. After all, who cares about this difference!

No, wait! It can be an interesting knowledge to have. And who knows you may benefit from it if your symptoms persist for too long.

The duration of these health issues combines with symptom intensity, onset duration, and nature of symptoms to give key differences between both.


Different Nature

The two conditions may feel like twin sisters but keep in mind that the viruses causing them are quite different and may have varying impacts on the body especially the immune system. People contract any of these viruses through the nasal cavity, through breathing.

However, viruses of cold proceed with care and would start with throat congestion; while flu acts undercover and only attack once its army has reached all the sensitive spots in the body within one day of its invasion.

If you have contracted cold, you should not worry much because this illness subsides after a few days. However, in the case of flu, there can be a lot for you to worry in case your illness becomes nasty. You should protect yourself against pneumonia if you believe that it’s flu from which are suffering right now.

Season of Onset

No, it’s not a surefire rule to get the diagnosis. But you can be sure that you are not suffering from flu if your symptoms appear in summer, autumn, or spring seasons.

The onset of Flu and Cold

A cold develops gradually over a few days before you feel its full intensity.

But if it’s flu which will be your guest for the coming days you will witness an abrupt arrival without prior notice.


This is the most commonly cited difference between both. Flu often comes with a, usually, high fever.

Fever doesn’t accompany cold much. It is rare in the cold of adults. Even if adults attract fever with cold this fever is mild. It is common for children to develop a fever as part of the cold.

Stuffy Nose

Influenza comes with rare instances of a stuffy or runny nose. But the well-acclaimed milder cold usually comes accompanying stuffy or runny nose.


Let’s talk about another symptom that may get the best of you during cold or flu. And yes, the award goes to sneezing.

This frustrating symptom also is more common in cold than in flu.

Sore Throat

Sore throat is another indication for differentiating between cold and flu. Cold most commonly brings soreness in throat; while flu only occasionally gives off this symptom.

Chest Discomfort

If you are feeling congestion in the chest, it is more likely that you are suffering from the flu rather than cold. Chest discomfort in later illness only ranges between mild and moderate levels. Another troublesome symptom is the type of cough which is worse with the flu. The flu brings dry cough but its sister brings mucus with the cough.


This is one of those symptoms which make influenza far worse than cold. Headaches make a common part of influenza. What’s worse is their intensity. Headache in flu can be severe and debilitating.

Cold, fortunately, leaves this symptom alone when it comes.


This can be another tell-tale sign of influenza. If you are getting chills with your cold and flu symptoms, there is a high probability that you are suffering from flu not cold.


If you are down with flu, in addition to headache, you might feel disturbing body aches. These aches can appear in any body part, but most common parts are head, neck, and shoulders. These aches vary from mild to moderate to severe in intensity.

Body aches in the cold are either non-existent or very mild.


Weakness combined with fatigue is another symptom that differentiates between the two conditions.

Flu often comes with excessive fatigue and weakness. In its milder sister, patients feel the uncomfortable symptoms of runny nose and frequent sneezing. But this symptom of excessive fatigue is absent from the problem of cold.

Take Away

So, we discussed a few differences between the flu and cold. The most prominent of these differences is the presence of high body temperature. If you have a fever, it is more likely for you to contract fever than it would have been if you had a cold.

But because people suffering from cold also sometimes suffer from high temperatures, we have listed other symptoms to differentiate the two respiratory tracts conditions.

common thought

4 thoughts on “Difference between Cold and Flu

  1. The way I always explain the cold and the flu is this… A cold is almost always in your head and a flu is almost always in your chest. Either way, I seldom get either anymore. I stopped taking prescription drugs, over the counter meds, and getting vaccines 10 years ago. Now I never get sick! It is funny how our body can adapt all on its own when you feed it what it needs.

  2. Fortunately I didn’t (not yet at least) get either a cold or the flu. And I hope things stay that way this winter but we’ll see. I’m trying to protect myself and my family as much as possible with honey, garlic, plenty of water, etc.

  3. I hate flu season! I always seem to get sick no matter what I do.

    There’s so little you can really do once you’re sick… I always try to get plenty of rest and hope that I recover quickly.

  4. I feel like this is especially important to remember considering it is flu season! For me, the most telling part of the flu is definitely the aches and pains and overwhelming exhaustion.

    I hope everyone stays healthy!

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