Signs and Symptoms: Flu Versus Cold

Cleaning nose

While the initial symptoms can seem very similar, the cold and the flu are two very different illnesses. A cold is more of a mild, respiratory illness, while the flu is something that will keep you down and out for weeks. The flu can also result in complications like pneumonia and hospitalizations. To better understand the difference between the cold and the flu, here are the symptoms you’ll experience.

Symptoms of the cold

  • Sore throat which goes away within two days
  • Nasal symptoms: runny nose and congestion
  • A cough towards the end of the illness
  • Fever is possible, but unlikely

Symptoms of the flu

  • Cold-like symptoms, including sore throat, congestion and cough
  • Muscle aches and soreness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Cold symptoms typically last around a week, with the first three days being the most contagious. During those first few days, it’s important to stay at home. If your cold symptoms persist for more than a week, check with your doctor to determine if you’ve developed an allergy or sinusitis.

For the flu, symptoms are more intense, but last only two to five days. However, because of the intense symptoms, you may feel run down for more than a week. If you begin to notice shortness of breath alongside your flu symptoms, seek medical attention immediately as this could be a sign of pneumonia.

To prevent both the cold and the flu, wash your hands as often as possible. You should also avoid close contact with anyone displaying symptoms of either illness. For the flu, you can also get the annual flu vaccine to prevent getting sick.

If you believe your child have symptoms of either the cold or the flu, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. At Medical City Children’s Hospital Urgent Care, our doctors are highly qualified and will treat your child with the utmost care. You can even check in online at!

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.