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Is It a Cold or the Flu?

A helpful comparison of cold and flu symptoms.

You feel awful. Your nose is runny, you are tired, and you have a cough. Do you have a cold or did you catch the flu?

They are both respiratory illnesses and they share some common symptoms, so it can be difficult to tell them apart based on symptoms alone. However, there are differences that will help you determine what is causing your discomfort.

Comparison of Cold & Flu Symptoms

Symptom Cold Flu (influenza)

Body aches

Rare, mild

Common, sometimes intense





Common, mild to moderate

Common, sudden onset


Common, mild

Common, intense


Absent or mild

Common, temperature 38°C-40°C (100.4°F-104°F)


Rare, mild

Common, sometimes intense

Nausea & vomiting


Rare in adults but common in children; may be accompanied by diarrhea & abdominal pain

Runny or stuffy nose


Sometimes in adults; more common in children




Sore throat



Flu symptoms generally come on very suddenly and are more intense, while cold symptoms develop more gradually. Flu symptoms are usually worst for the first 3 or 4 days. In people who are generally healthy, the flu will likely last only 7 to 10 days, but it can take up to 2 weeks to get completely well. Colds usually last about 1 to 2 weeks.

If a child is sick and you aren’t sure what is causing it, it is best to check with a doctor to make sure the symptoms aren’t due to a serious illness such as a strep throat or pneumonia.

Treating a Cold & the Flu

While there is no cure for a cold or the flu, there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms.

  • Antipyretics/analgesics such as ibuprofen can reduce fever and pain.
  • Antihistamines help dry out the nose.
  • Decongestants can relieve a stuffy, clogged nose.
  • Antitussives can reduce coughing.

A product such as Advil Cold, Sinus and Flu Extra Strength can provide effective relief of 10 symptoms with just one pill, allowing your body to get the rest it needs in order to recover.

Be sure this product is right for you, read and follow the label. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute of any kind for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of a qualified professional as required. Speak to your healthcare professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, or beginning or discontinuing any course of treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.