How to Know the Difference? Cold, Flu and COVID

Overview

Even though the symptoms of the cold, flu, and COVID can be very similar, we can usually tell the difference between them by: 

  • While many people had no symptoms or had very mild flu-like symptoms, COVID can be fatal.
  • Getting over the flu takes a lot longer than getting over a cold. 
  • Most of the time, a cold doesn’t cause a fever or muscle pain. It takes about a week to get over a cold, but it could take a couple of weeks to get over the flu.
  • Most of the time, the flu gives us body aches, fever, and a very bad feeling. 
  • If you don’t treat the flu right, it can lead to complications like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Check out the table below for a comparison of COVID, flu, and cold symptoms.

Some people spread sunshine, but I hate those people

Signs and Symptoms of a Cold

Some of the symptoms are a stuffy, runny nose, a scratchy, tickly throat, sneezing, watery eyes, and a low-grade fever. High fever doesn’t happen very often. Resting and drinking a lot of fluids are two ways to treat symptoms. It takes about 2 to 5 days to get over a cold. Since viruses cause colds, antibiotics won’t help.

Signs and Symptoms of a Flu

The flu can cause a fever, a stuffy nose, sore muscles, and tiredness. The flu virus is to blame for this. When it gets really bad, it can lead to diseases like pneumonia that can kill you.

Antibiotics are sometimes used to treat gastroenteritis caused by bacteria, but they don’t help with the flu. It typically takes about 1 to 2 weeks to recover from a flu.

Treatment for the Common Cold or Flu

Most people get better on their own from a common cold, since colds usually don’t lead to serious problems.

The flu is mostly treated by letting the body rest and drinking fluids so it can fight off the infection on its own. Additionally, over-the-counter pain relievers that reduce inflammation may help with some of the symptoms. An annual flu shot can help keep you from getting the flu and limit the damage it can do. If your symptoms get worse and you aren’t feeling better after one to two weeks, you may need to see a doctor and get a prescription for antiviral drugs. There is a higher risk of complications like pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis, otitis media, myocarditis, and other similar conditions.

Visit the CDC for the most up-to-date information about colds and flu.

Getting to Know the Symptoms and Warning Signs

Visit the CDC website to learn more about the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19.

SYMPTOMSCOVIDCOLDFLU
Shortness of BreathCommonRareRare
FeverCommonRareCommon
HeadacheSometimesRareCommon
Body AchesSometimesSometimesCommon
CoughCommonCommonCommon
Sore ThroatRareCommonCommon
FatigueSometimesSometimesCommon
Stuffy noseRareCommonSometimes
SneezingRareCommonSometimes
Runny NoseRareCommonSometimes

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