The cold versus flu debate is one that rages in households every fall. Since both illnesses have similar symptoms, it’s easy to understand why people get confused.
The symptoms are certainly comparable. However, while you might have a cold many times throughout the year, you’ll typically only get the flu every few years or so.
How to Tell If You Have a Cold
The biggest indicator that you’re suffering from a cold is if your symptoms are mostly in your nose. The three key signs of a cold shouldn’t come as a surprise:
- Runny nose
- Nasal stuffiness
A cold can also be accompanied by a fever of 100 or 101 degrees or slight scratchiness in the back of your throat. Length of time matters, too: a cold typically lasts about a week.
- Low grade fever
- Sore throat
How to Tell If You Have the Flu
The flu is definitely not limited to just the nose. When the flu hits, you’ll typically feel it all over. The onset of symptoms is swift, and usually starts with a high-grade fever between 102 and 105 degrees (keep in mind children will usually have higher fevers than adults). Additional symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Fatigue (often extreme)
- Severe coughing
While the symptoms of the flu are more severe, they still last roughly as long as a cold – about 7 to 10 days. Many people experience another stretch of fatigue and fever at the tail end of that timeframe.
The flu is extremely contagious, so it’s easily passed from one person to another. Since the virus exists in the tiny droplets emitted from coughs or sneezes, you’ll also contract the flu if you touch something with the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes afterwards. Avoiding the flu is possible if you take a few simple precautions.
The CDC recommends taking “everyday preventative actions” to stop the spread of germs, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; staying home when sick and frequented washing your hands with soap and warm water.