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Is it a Cold or the Flu? Here’s How to Tell

Those of us who are frequently sniffly are pretty in-tune to what’s causing our mucus buildup. Has it just become more sunny outside? Probably a sinus infection. Have I been around a cat owner recently? Probably just my allergies.

But when it comes to cold and flu season, it can get a little trickier to navigate the differences between the two respiratory illnesses. They feel really similar—congestion, headache, some coughing, maybe even a high fever for both.

Here are our best questions to ask yourself concerning your symptoms, though it should be noted that it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. We encourage you to visit your doctor to have tests performed, so that they have the opportunity to catch your flu early and treat it accordingly.

When did you start experiencing symptoms?

If they came on suddenly, it’s likely that you have the flu. Cold symptoms usually have a gradual onset, where maybe your throat hurts one day then you start sneezing and aching the next.

Do you have a fever?

The flu is almost always accompanied by fever. Colds may present fever, but not always. Take inventory of your personal history—do you usually get fevers when you have a cold? This same principle applies with chills and aches. People with the flu almost always experience chills and aches, but people with a cold rarely do.

Feeling fatigued?

The flu is exhausting. The fatigue that accompanies a proper flu will have you on the couch for days. For a cold, you may feel fatigued for a day or so, but you’ll snap out of it after a day or two of good rest and medication.

Sneezy, stuffy, coughing, and sore throat?

These symptoms are very common with a cold, and only sometimes are experienced with a flu.


Headaches are common with the flu but pretty rare with a common cold. If you’re the kind of person who frequently experiences sinus pressure headaches, then you may even be experiencing a serious sinus infection!

Whatever the cause, respiratory and airway problems are our specialty. Go ahead and call us, so that we can get you on a path to healing today.