Is It a Cold or the Flu? - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Achiness. Fatigue. Sore throat. Chills. Is it a cold or the flu? It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense. The flu will also typically come on suddenly. 

Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations - which can happen with the flu. 

Here's a quick chart to help you decipher symptoms of each:

Symptom Cold Flu
Runny or Stuffy Nose Yes Yes
Nasal Congestion Yes Yes
Sneezing Yes Sometimes
Cough Sometimes Yes (Usually Dry)
Fever Sometimes (Mild) Yes (Though Not Always)
Muscle Aches Yes Yes (Can Be Severe)
Fatigue Yes Yes (Can Be Extreme)
Scratchy/Sore Throat Yes Yes
Headache Yes Yes
Vomiting/Diarrhea No Yes (Most Common in Children)

What to Do if You Have the Flu

If you think you may have the flu, visit our special flu section to find out how to treat it or see a doctor at one of our clinics, outpatient centers or hospitals. Find one near you.

And of course, it's always better to prevent the flu. If you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, make a point to get one now. Flu season typically peaks in January and February here in Wisconsin.

Don't forget to wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the single most effective ways to fight off colds and flu.

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Is It a Cold or the Flu?