Flu or cold?

Flu or cold?
Flu and cold symptoms are similar but there are some clues to help you tell the difference and decide whether to stay home.

Biggest clue

Flu symptoms come on in less than 24 hours and with great intensity. There is a characteristic high fever (100-102 degrees) that lasts three to four days. Fever with a cold is rare and symptoms come on more slowly over several days.

How does your body feel with the flu?

You feel like you were hit by a truck with sometimes severe aches and pains; chills; prominent headache; and extreme exhaustion, fatigue and weakness that may last two to three weeks.

How does you body feel with a cold?

Fever, chills and headache are rare. Feeling a little achy is common.

Neck up or neck down?

Symptoms are predominantly from the neck up with a cold and include stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough. In contrast, you may not have any nose or throat symptoms with the flu but rather chest discomfort and cough.

Stay home or go to work

The fever, chills and inflammation of the flu make it imperative for you to stay home and not share the germs. It’s okay to go to work with a cold but consider whether you are needlessly exposing co-workers and prolonging your own illness.

Website for flu sufferers

A new website called Flunearyou.org wants you to log on and complain about your flu symptoms. It’s an effort to track where, when and how severely flu has hit particular areas. The site offers up-to-date info on where flu has hit the hardest as compared to the Centers for Disease Control that tracks flu patterns more slowly because of reliance on doctors’ reports and lab data.

Flunearyou.org also has facebook pages where you can network with other flu sufferers and share stories about your symptoms.


Flu can sometimes lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Colds may cause sinus congestion or earache.


Practice good hygiene to prevent either a flu and cold. Consider adding an annual flu shot or FluMist.


Over-the-counter cold medications provide temporary relief while antiviral drugs taken within 24-48 hours may help with the flu.

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