Is it the flu or the common cold?

You’re coughing and sneezing, among other things. Do you have the flu or a cold?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website that the flu and common cold have different signs and symptoms. For example, while the flu can come with a fever that lasts three or four days, a fever rarely accompanies the common cold. Chills are common with the flu but uncommon with a cold. You can view a side-by-side comparison of the signs and symptoms of the flu and the common cold on the CDC’s website.

Below are the symptoms of the flu and common cold, according to the CDC.

Flu Symptoms

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. Those who have the flu often experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills. (Not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

For more information on the flu, including preventive steps you can take, visit cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm.

Common cold

Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more. Most people recover in about seven to 10 days.

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include:

  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • headaches
  • body aches

For more information on the common cold, including preventive steps you can take, visit cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses.

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