Influenza & Cold Symptoms

Influenza and a cold are both respiratory (breathing) system infections caused by viruses. Initial symptoms of flu and colds are similar, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have the flu or a very bad cold. The flu can cause more serious illness than a common cold. Colds and flu are both highly contagious and, in the initial stages, a bad cold and a mild case of the flu might seem alike. However, flu is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis. It is impossible to tell for sure if you have the flu based on symptoms alone. Doctors can perform tests to see if you have the flu within 2-3 days of the start of illness. Check this table for a comparison of the symptoms for each illness:
Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Rare in adults and older children, but can be as high as 102 degrees Fahrenheit in infants and small children
Usually 102 degrees Fahrenheit, but can go up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and usually lasts 3-4 days
Headache Rare Sudden onset and can be severe
Muscle aches
Usual and often severe
Tiredness and weakness
Often extreme and can last 2 or more weeks
Extreme exhaustion
Never Sudden onset and can be severe
Runny nose
Often Sometimes
Sneezing Often Sometimes
Sore throat
Often Sometimes
Cough Mild hacking cough
Usual and can become severe