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What Is The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu?

Cold vs the flu: Both cold and flu are caused by viruses that infect your airways. The symptoms for both are quite similar but there is a thin line that differentiates between the two. Read here to know about symptoms that can help you differentiate between the two.



  1. Flu is more severe than cold
  2. Excessive sneezing is more indicative of cold than flu
  3. Cold can be caught any time of the year, but it is more common in winter

Cold and the flu are some of the most common infections during winter. Both these infections have a lot in common and it might actually be difficult sometimes to draw a difference between them. Both cold and the flu are caused by viruses that infect airways. Their symptoms are similar and so are their effects on the body. However, there are still enough differences between them that can help you figure out a clear difference between them. These differences will also help you to avail appropriate treatment of cold or the flu. 

Here are some symptoms that can tell you if you have a cold or the flu:

1. If you have a stuffy or running nose, you probably have a cold (sometimes it can be flu too).

2. Excessive sneezing is more indicative of cold than flu.


Excessive sneezing is a more indicative of cold than the flu
Photo Credit: iStock

3. If you are coughing and have green or yellow phlegm, it is a cold. In case of dry cough, it is flu.

4. A sore throat is mostly indicative of a cold and can sometimes be flu too.

5. In case of mild head and body aches, you have a cold. But if there are severe pains in all parts of the body, you are suffering from the flu.

Also read: Ajwain - A Natural Remedy For Colds That Actually Works

6. Nausea can sometimes be indicative of flu, but not cold.

7. In case of fever, there are rare chances that it may be indicative of cold in adults. Otherwise, fever means that you have the flu.

8. If you feel chills and sweats, it means you are suffering from the flu.

9. Symptoms of cold will show slowly over a period of time. Whereas, symptoms of flu will show faster, within a few hours.


Symptoms of the flu appear faster than symptoms of cold
Photo Credit: iStock

Other clues for checking if you have a cold or the flu:

  • As an infection, a cold can strike you at any time of the year. But your chances of catching it are most likely in winters.
  • Flu on the other hand runs from November to March. Some might catch the flu in October and even in May. Flu can be caught at other times of the year as well, but the symptoms are most likely from allergies or cold.
  • Flu feels much worse than a cold, especially among children and older people. Flu can lead to some serious diseases like pneumonia and might even lead to hospitalization.
  • In most cases, it is even difficult for the doctor to know if it is a cold or the flu. A test might be required to find what you actually have. 

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Also read: 7 Things You Must Have At Home During The Flu Season


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