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Flu symptoms or a cold?

Feeling under the weather? Are you wondering whether it's symptoms of the flu or a cold?

Because flu symptoms are quite similar to cold symptoms, it's often hard to tell the difference. However, there is one clue about flu that can help you: flu symptoms occur sooner after exposure, and are usually more intense than cold symptoms.

What symptoms will I have with flu?

With the flu you’ll have muscle aches and periods of chills and sweats as a fever comes and goes. You may also have a stuffy or runny nose, headache and sore throat. After the acute symptoms have subsided you may feel very weak and fatigued for up to two or three weeks.

Can I compare flu symptoms with cold symptoms?

Yes. The following chart can help you compare flu symptoms with cold symptoms. Use it to learn the differences and similarities between flu and cold symptoms. Then, if you get flu symptoms, you can seek medical advice to see if an antiviral medicine is appropriate for you.






Characteristic, high
(higher than 38C); lasts 3-4 days




General aches, pains


Usual; often severe

Fatigue, weakness

Quite mild

Can last up to 2-3 weeks

Extreme exhaustion


Early and prominent

Stuffy nose






Sore throat



Chest discomfort,

Mild to moderate;
hacking cough

Common; can become severe


Sinus congestion
or earache

Bronchitis,  pneumonia;
can be life threatening


Good hygiene

Good hygiene, annual  flu jab


Over the counter symptomatic relief

Over the counter symptomatic relief. Antiviral drugs within 24-48 hours
of onset may be advised



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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 29, 2012

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