How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu


Autumn and winter are the seasons for flu and common colds in Australia. It's essential to understand the difference between the two illnesses to take the right measures to prevent their spread. Both illnesses share similar symptoms and can last a few days to a week or more. Common symptoms may encompass a watery nose, irritated throat, persistent cough and elevated body temperature. However, the flu can be more severe and lead to additional complications such as pneumonia. In this blog post, you'll learn how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu so that you can take the necessary steps for a speedy recovery.

Onset of Symptoms

One way to tell the difference between a cold and the flu is to look at the onset of symptoms. With a cold, the symptoms appear gradually over a few days and are often milder. In contrast, the flu symptoms start abruptly and can come about in a few hours. You'll often feel unwell or extremely fatigued; this sign will indicate you have the flu.

Body Aches

Aches and pains are common with the flu virus. Flu symptoms often include severe body aches, especially in the arms, legs, and back. With a cold, body aches are less usual, and if present, they tend to be mild. If you experience significant body aches, it's time to contact your healthcare professional.

Respiratory Symptoms

Respiratory symptoms are typical of both the flu and common colds, but they may vary in severity and duration. With a cold, you'll experience a runny or congested nose, a sore throat, and a cough. Conversely, the influenza virus targets the respiratory system, manifesting as intense coughing, chest discomfort, and respiratory distress. If you have a persistent cough, it could be a sign of the flu, and you should seek medical care.


A fever is a common symptom of both cold and flu. However, it's often more common with the flu virus. When you have the flu, you'll experience a high fever that lasts several days. A fever that accompanies a cold is typically mild or absent.


The duration of the symptoms is another way to tell whether you have a common cold or the flu. A cold usually lasts for a few days to a week, while the flu can last for about a week or more. If your symptoms don't get better or get suddenly worse, reach out to a healthcare professional.

Knowing the difference can help you take the right measures to prevent their spread and receive appropriate treatment. If you experience flu-like symptoms, such as a high fever, severe body aches, and a long-lasting cough, seek medical care. The primary prevention measures for both illnesses include regular handwashing, staying away from sick people, and getting vaccinated when possible.

Contact a local doctor to learn more.


10 October 2023

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