What is the difference between colds and flu?

Flu may look similar at first to colds. Both are respiratory diseases and and can cause similar symptoms. But different viruses cause these two problems. Your symptoms can help you know the difference between them.

Both cold and flu share some common symptoms. People with any disease often suffer from:

  • Body pain
  • General fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or clogged nose

generally, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.

The obvious difference between the two is how serious they are. Colds rarely cause other health problems. But influenza can lead to:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Sinusitis

Flu symptoms in adults

Flu-related fever appears in adults and can be severe. For many adults, sudden severe fever is the first symptom of influenza. It can also be a sign on COVID-19.

Adults rarely develop fever unless they have a serious infection. The flu virus causes a sudden rise in temperature greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius). Other viral infections, such as colds, may cause low-grade fever.

Moreover, children and adults share many of the same symptoms. Some people may have more symptoms than someone else. Everyone will be different.

If your symptoms are severe, you may want to confirm a diagnosis of a cold or flu. Your doctor will test that can help determine the cause of your symptoms. Cold and flu symptoms should also be treated with caution due to their interplay with COVID-19 symptoms.

If your doctor diagnoses a cold, you’ll only need to treat the symptoms until the virus is gone. These treatments can include:

  • Use of over-the-counter cold medications
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get a lot of rest

For influenza, taking drugs early in the virus cycle may help reduce the severity of the disease and shorten the time it gets sick. Rest and hydration are also useful for people with influenza. Like many colds, influenza often takes time to make its way through your body.

What is the difference between influenza and COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19, influenza and COVID-19 overlap, but they are often different. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

What are the symptoms of flu?

Here are some common symptoms of influenza:


Influenza always causes a rise in body temperature. Most influenza-related fevers range from low-grade fever around 100°F (37.8°C) to 104°F (40°C)

Although it is worrying, it is not uncommon for young children to suffer from a higher fever than adults.


The first symptoms of influenza may be a severe headache. Sometimes, symptoms are associated, including sensitivity to light and sound.

Muscle pain

Flu-related muscle pain is more common in the neck, back, arms and legs. They can be severe often, making it difficult to move.

Feeling tired.

Feeling tired of the unclear symptoms of influenza. A general feeling of malaise can be a sign of many conditions. These feelings of fatigue can come quickly and are difficult to overcome.

Influenza vaccine

You don’t have to be young or have a weak immune system for a serious flu. Healthy people can get sick of the flu and pass it on to friends and family.

In some cases, influenza can be fatal. Influenza-related deaths are more common among people aged 65 or over, but can be seen in children and young people.

The best and most effective way to avoid and prevent influenza is to get the flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine is available in the following forms:

  • Injectable dose
  • High dose of injections (for those over 65 years of age)
  • Nasal spray

The more people vaccinated against influenza, the less common influenza.

How does the flu vaccine work?

scientists pick influenza virus strains that research suggests will be the most common in the next flu season. Then millions of vaccines are produced and distributed in these strains.

Once the vaccine is received, the body begins to produce antibodies against these viruses. These antibodies provide protection against the virus.

You may get sick if you are exposed to a different strain of the virus. But the symptoms will be less severe because you have been vaccinated.

How long does the flu last?

Most people recover from the flu within about a week. But it may take several days for you to feel back to your usual self.

It’s important to stay home away from school or work until you get rid of fever for at least 24 hours.

If you have the flu, you can pass it on to someone else one day before the onset of symptoms and up to 5-7 days thereafter.

If you have any symptoms of colds or flu during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should isolate yourself during the test and continue to practice good hygiene such as:

  • Wash your hands
  • Disinfection of high-touch areas
  • Wearing a face mask
  • Avoid communicating with others

Flu treatment options

Most cases of influenza are mild enough so you can treat yourself at home without a prescription. It is important to stay at home and avoid contact with others when you first notice flu symptoms. You should also:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. This includes water, soups and low-sugar flavored beverages.
  • Treat symptoms such as headaches and fever with over-the-counter medications.

Wash your hands to prevent the virus from spreading to other surfaces or other people in your home.

  • Wear a face mask when in public.
  • Cover the cough and sneezing with napkins. Get rid of those tissues immediately.

If symptoms worsen, contact your doctor. They may prescribe an antiviral drug. The sooner you take this drug, the more effective it will be. Treatment should begin within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

High-risk groups include:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Pregnant women or up to two weeks after birth
  • Persons at least 65 years of age
  • Children under 5 years of age (in particular, those under 2 years of age)
  • Persons living in chronic care facilities or nursing homes
  • People with chronic diseases, such as heart or lung diseases

What is the incubation period for the flu?

The typical incubation period for influenza is 1 to 4 days. Incubation refers to the period when the virus is in your body and develops.

During this time, no symptoms of the virus may appear. This does not mean that you are unable to transfer them to someone else. Many people are able to transmit the virus to others the day before symptoms appear.

Millions of small droplets that fly when we sneeze, cough or talk, spread the flu virus. These drops enter your body through your nose, mouth or eyes. Influenza can also be infected by touching a surface where the virus is and then touching the nose, mouth or eyes.