Cold or Flu?

How to Tell the Difference

Yesterday, you felt normal. Today, however you woke up feeling lousy. You can’t explain it, but you just do not feel “right”. It could be that you did not get a good night’s sleep, you ate something the day before and now you are paying for it, or worse. You could be sick.

How do you know if you have a cold or a flu?

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Both can make you feel miserable, but they need to be treated with different care. If you try to treat a flu with over the counter medicines, you are only spending money on pills and that does not work. On the other hand, you don’t need to see a doctor if you have a common cold. (As a side note, if you feel you need to seek medical attention because you are unsure about your condition, do not hesitate to see your doctor).

So, how can you tell the difference?

Below is a list of symptoms you can use to find out if you have a cold or the flu. Each symptom by itself does not constitute a sickness, but combined, they can be signs.


- Fever: generally when you have a cold, you will not have a fever. If you do, it will be very mild. With the flu, however, you will have a high fever that will spike quickly. Signs of a high fever include uncontrollable chills, sever sweating, and difficulty concentrating.


- Stuffy nose: This can occur for many reasons, including seasonal allergies, being around a group of people that smoke, and other reasons. Usually a stuffy nose will follow a cold, but not as much with the flu.


- Headache: Headaches are common with the flu. They are consistent and do not stop with pain reliever. When you have a cold, you will not have a headache.


- Fatigue: Before you think that you fit this symptom and that everyone has this, think again. According to the National Library of Medicine, drowsiness is feeling a need to sleep whereas fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. At the end of the day, you feel drowsy, but when you have the flu, you feel fatigued.


- Sore Throat & Sneezing: These symptoms are common in colds but not as frequent with the flu. If it hurts when you swallow, you could have a more severe issue such as strep, which needs to be addressed immediately.


- Aches: With a cold, you will not have too many aches. If you have the flu, you will feel a lot like (a) a semi-truck hit you head-on, (b) you worked out for 10 hours the day before, or (c) like death walked all over you. However you want to describe it, every single muscle in your body aches. The flu takes a toll on your whole body, not just one part of it.

Maybe you don’t want to go through a whole checklist of symptoms, so you want an easier way to figure out if you are sick or healthy. There is one way you can tell if you’re that never fails: feel your lymph nodes. Lift your head up and feel underneath your jaw with your fingertips. If your lymph nodes are sore and enlarged, you know you need to seek appropriate treatment.

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