The common cold and the flu share many symptoms, which can make it difficult to tell them apart. Both can cause a cough, stuffy nose and muscle aches, and both commonly happen during the winter months. However, it’s important to know the difference, since flu can lead to some serious complications such as pneumonia, worsening of asthma, and hospitalization.
In general, the flu comes on much faster than the common cold and symptoms are more intense. With a cold, the first signs are typically a sre throat and runny nose, followed by coughing and sneezing. With flu, people are hit hard and fast with a fever, muscle soreness, sore throat, dry cough and/or headache. The flu usually lasts longer than a cold with some people experiencing fatigue and weakness for several weeks.
Take a look at the table below to learn more about how the cold and flu are different.
|Caused by||Several different viruses (usually rhinoviruses, but also respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, human coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus)||The influenza virus|
|Fever||Rare||Common 101°−102° F (38.3°−38.9°C)|
|Muscle aches||Mild||Can be severe|
|Coughing||Common||Common (dry cough)|
|Headache||Rare||Common (can be severe)|
|Peak season||Late winter and early spring||Late fall and winter|