How can I tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Colds and the flu can be very hard to tell apart. The symptoms of a cold usually come on gradually. The most common cold symptoms include a run-down feeling, scratch throat, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezes.

You may have a dry cough or headache, but fever in adults with a cold is rare. Colds seldom develop into more serious problems, but they sure can make life uncomfortable. Cold symptoms usually last about 10-14 days, the length of time it takes your immune system to fight the virus.

Flu symptoms often appear suddenly. The flu often begins like a cold, with a runny nose and a general run-down feeling, but more severe symptoms such as fever, body ache, headache, dry cough, sore throat, weakness or loss of appetite develop abruptly in 1-2 days. The flu usually lasts 7-10 days, but you may not feel completely recovered for up to 2-3 weeks.

See more information on the CDC’s Cold Versus Flu page.