Distinguishing Between the Flu and the Common Cold

Although flu seems similar to the common cold, its source is the collection of related RNA viruses called influenza viruses rather than the more than 200 viruses responsible for causing the common cold. However, learning to distinguishing between the flu and the common cold can be important, not least because the flu has higher chances of becoming something much more serious.

In main, both the flu and the common cold exhibit a similar selection of symptoms. For example, most cases of the common cold begin with a combination of chills and fatigue intervaled with headaches and sneezing, before leading right into coughing and a running nose. More serious cases can include fevers, but tend to be more common in children than in adults. In contrast, most cases of the flu begin with fevers, before leading right into a combination of aches, fatigue, coughing, and nasal congestion bad enough to necessitate rest in a bed. The same symptoms seen in cases of the common cold become much more serious in cases of the flu.


Both the flu and the common cold can lead to more serious complications such as pneumonia. However, this is rarer for cases of the common cold than for cases of the flu. In most cases, the flu can be fought off using a combination of rest and over-the-counter remedies, but there are certain symptoms that should provide cause for an immediate visit to health care providers. These include but are not limited to shortness of breath, a pressure in the chest, the onset of dizziness, persistent vomiting, and even seizures. Symptoms of the flu that seem to fade before returning with stronger force should also be considered cause for concern. Seeing health care providers is the best solution if sufferers are unsure about their conditions, since it is better to be safe than sorry.