Cold vs. Flu: Know the Difference

Telling the difference between a cold and the flu can be difficult because they share many of the same symptoms. And while they’re both respiratory illnesses, they’re actually caused by different viruses. As a result, there are some key differences between the two you should know about—so you can treat your symptoms properly and get better.

Generally speaking, a cold is usually milder, while the flu can be more intense. Also, a cold rarely leads to serious health issues, but the flu can have very serious complications. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed below. Only special tests can determine if you have the flu, so make sure to talk to a health care provider within the first few days if you’re having symptoms.


With a cold, symptoms develop gradually.
A fever is rare.
There are slight body aches but usually only headaches.
Headache may occur, but is less common.
A stuffy nose is common.
A sore throat is common.
With a cold, there can be a hacking cough that brings up mucus.
Chest congestion is common but usually mild to moderate.


With the flu, symptoms develop rapidly. There’s a sudden onset.
A fever ≥100ºF is common.
Body aches are common, affects the entire body, and are often severe.
Headache is common.
A stuffy nose is less common.
A sore throat is less common.
With the flu, there can be a dry, tickly, unproductive cough.
Chest congestion is common and often severe.

So, even though there are distinctive differences between cold and flu symptoms, many can be subtle—which can lead to confusion. That’s why it’s important to understand the differences so you can recognize your symptoms and take the right approach to treating a cold or the flu. Remember, if you’re experiencing symptoms be sure to talk to your doctor.

To find the right Theraflu product to help relieve your worst cold and flu symptoms, use our quick and easy product tool. You can also find tips on how to help avoid a cold and the flu here.


  1. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. (2018). Retrieved February 21, 2019, from
  2. Cold Versus Flu. (2019). Retrieved February 21, 2019, from