Cold or Flu? A Few Key Differences

It can be tricky to recognize the differences between cold and flu symptoms. But while many symptoms are similar, there are a few identifiers that set them apart.

cold or flu

Initial Symptoms
Usually, the first symptom of a cold is an irritated throat. Next, you may develop a cough or runny nose. As for flu, when it initially strikes, you will probably experience muscle aches, fatigue and a fever. These symptoms can frequently segue into others discomforts including sore throat, ear aches, croup, or pneumonia and/or bronchitis.

Progressing Symptoms
The cold and flu share many of the same symptoms, yet they contrast in seriousness. A cold’s symptoms typically escalate more gradually than those of the flu. Flu often lasts longer, too, sometimes lingering for a couple weeks. (Colds usually dissipate in a few days.)

Fever and chills can occasionally occur with a cold but are far more typical of flu. Up to 80 percent of all flu cases introduce a temperature of at least 100 degrees for 3 to 4 days. And while a cold may bring on some mild aches and pains, flu is marked by more severe versions. Muscle aches and headaches are telltale signs of flu.

There is not a cure for either the cold or flu. Recovery is usually accomplished by allowing the sicknesses to run their natural course. Ways to support a healthy recovery include plenty of rest and drinking a lot of fluid.

Decongestants and pain relievers (fever reducers) can help. Doctors can also prescribe antiviral medications where appropriate to help diminish the effects of the flu.

There are several ways to avoid the cold or flu. Regularly washing your hands and avoiding touching your face with your hands confines the spread of germs. The cold and flu are frequently spread from the hands to the mouth.

Good health also minimizes sickness. Staying healthy by eating properly, working out, getting plenty of rest, etc. help keep your immune system in prime condition to fend off potential sicknesses.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.