Screen Readers Skip to Content
Tweet Facebook Email
Print Page

Common Cold and Influenza Symptoms and Difference

Author: Disabled World

Contact :

Published: 2019-12-13 - (Updated: 2019-12-23)


The flu (influenza) and the common cold may share a number of symptoms. However, there are important differences regarding the effects of their symptoms.

Key Points:

Main Digest

There are literally hundreds of strains of cold viruses that can cause a cold any time of year.

There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Influenza A and B viruses are the most common cause of seasonal influenza outbreaks in humans. Emergence of a new and different influenza A virus that infects people can cause an influenza pandemic. Typically, type C influenza only causes minor respiratory diseases (not an epidemic), and influenza D mainly affects animals and does not infect humans.

Currently there is no treatment against the flu or a cold, since they are viral infections (and not bacterial), antibiotics have no effect on them. Your immune system must fight the infection in order to eliminate it. Both colds and the flu require plenty of rest, fluids and time.

How to Tell a Cold and the Flu Apart

See our chart further down the page that explains symptom differences between the "flu" and the "common cold".

When is "Flu Season"?

A vaccine against the flu is available, but there is no vaccine currently available to protect you against a cold. The flu vaccine is updated to include current viruses each year. Fall (Autumn) is the best time of year to receive the yearly influenza vaccine shot.

When should I receive a flu shot?

Woman in blue sweater blowing her nose into a tissue. A small orange pack of tissues is also in her hands.
Woman in blue sweater blowing her nose into a tissue. A small orange pack of tissues is also in her hands.

Cold and Flu Tips

How Do I Know If I Have the Flu or a Cold?

Different Symptoms Between Colds and Flu
Sore Throat Very common Common.
Sneezing Common Rare.
Stuffed nose
Common Rare.
Headaches Rare Common, Sometimes strong.
Overall Pain Occasional, Mild Common, Sometimes intense.
Coughing Mild, Moderate, Rarely severe Strong, Possible respiratory problems
Fever Rare, mild, transient Possible sudden high fever (102ºF/38.9ºC - 104ºF/40ºC); lasts 3 - 4 days. NOTE: Not everyone with flu will experience fever.
Occasional, mild Common, Often strong, Can be severe at onset and last several weeks.
Colds In general, a cold is shorter in duration and less intense than the flu. Symptoms related to the common cold are usually milder than symptoms of the flu. Those enduring a cold 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.
Influenza Symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish and/or chills, persistent cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and/or body aches, headaches and/or fatigue. Vomiting and/or diarrhea is more common in children than adults and rarely occur with the common cold. Most people who get flu will recover in several days - to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications) as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

If cold or flu symptoms become serious, do not hesitate to call or see a doctor.

Related Documents

Influenza - Colds List : RSS

Important Disclaimer:
Disabled World is strictly a news and information website provided for general informational purpose only and does not constitute medical advice. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

Please report 📧 outdated or inaccurate information to us.