Common cold and flu are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses that are different.   Both these conditions share common symptoms – and therefore, it is difficult to know whether it is cold or flu. If you feel feverishness or cough or sneeze with body pains and heaviness in the head in the daytime or after getting up from the bed, then how will you know whether you have symptoms of cold or flu. It’s rather difficult for you to know exactly what is the cause of your symptoms, but knowing the difference is important because the risk of symptoms becoming intense and leading to secondary infections like pneumonia are high.

Facts about cold and Cold symptoms

  • Common Cold is caused by hundreds of different viruses
  • Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat
  • Sore throat usually goes after a day or two
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion follow on the third day along with a cough
  • Common cold symptoms are mild (they are not intense)
  • Nose teems for a first few days with watery nasal secretions
  • The secretions (mucus) become thicker and darker
  • Runny or stuffy nose is a common cold symptom
  • Sneezing is common with cold
  • Chills are uncommon with cold
  • Stuffy nose resolves within a week (Dark mucus is natural and does not usually mean you have developed a bacterial infection, such as a sinus infection)
  • Bacterial infections like pneumonia are not associated with colds
  • Fever is rare with cold in adults, but slight fever may be possible (Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold)
  • Tiredness is mild to moderate
  • Headache is not very common but present
  • Common Cold do not cause any complications
  • Cold usually lasts for about a week

 Facts About Flu and Flu Symptoms

Flu is a severe and intense respiratory illness than cold. It can make you ill for a few days to weeks. The symptoms associated with flu are intense – whereas the symptoms associated with common cold are not as severe as flu. Colds usually don’t lead to severe complications compared to flu. Bacterial infections, pneumonia and other serious health complications are associated with flu, but are not usually associated with common cold.

Symptoms associated with flu

  • Sneezing is common
  • Fever is common with flu
  • Runny nose is common
  • Mild to moderate chills are associated with seasonal flu
  • Headache is fairly common with flu, but not with common cold
  • Body aches (moderate body aches are common with seasonal flu)
  • Runny nose is commonly present with seasonal flu
  • Tiredness is fairly moderate with flu
  • Sore throat is associated with flu
  • Note: Swine flu in particular is associated with vomiting and diarrhea
  • The common complication of flu is pneumonia.
  • Body aches and muscle aches are usually common with flu.

Bottom Line

Symptoms of common cold are milder than the symptoms of flu and usually common cold do not lead to any severe health complications. Furthermore, the symptoms associated with cold and flu are almost same; therefore, it is difficult or even impossible to diagnose cold or flu based only on symptoms. The information given here is just meant to serve as a resource, but not as a substitute to help diagnose symptoms and conditions. If you are experiencing any of such symptoms, then consult your healthcare provider and ask questions related to your condition. If a doctor deems necessary to order tests then he or she recommends special tests within first few days of infection to know whether the patient has cold or more serious flu.