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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

illustration of a person sick in bed.

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Fever Rare Usual; high (100°F to 102°F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Rare Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe
Treatment Antihistamines Decongestant Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines Antiviral medicines—
See your doctor
Prevention Wash your hands often
Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold
Annual vaccination; antiviral medicines — see your doctor
Complications Sinus congestion
Middle ear infection
Asthma
Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life threatening


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases

Read More "Understanding Flu" Articles

Understanding Flu / Is It a Cold or the Flu? / How Does Seasonal Flu Differ From Pandemic Flu? / Preventing Influenza

Fall 2006 Issue: Volume 1 Number 1 Page 19