Do I Have a Cold or Flu?

The common cold and the flu are two separate illnesses, though their symptoms can be very similar.

The flu is caused by the Influenza virus and is generally more severe than the common cold.  Influenza can be deadly.  In fact, Influenza is still in the top 10 causes of death in Utah, coming in at #9. 

If identified and treated quickly (or prevented all together by getting your annual flu shot), antiviral medications are available to shorten the duration and the severity of the illness. 

The following chart can help you decide if you have the cold or the flu:

Symptom

Cold

Flu

Fever

Rare

Typical and high – usually 100 F – 102 F

Headache

Rare

Common

General aches and pains

Slight

Typical and often severe

Fatigue, weakness

Sometimes

Usual – lasting up to 2-3 weeks

Extreme exhaustion

Never

Usual – at the beginning

Stuffy nose

Common

Sometimes

Sneezing

Typically

Sometimes

Sore throat

Common

Sometimes

Chest discomfort or cough

Common – average cough lasts 18 days

Sometimes

Treatment

woman sneezingThe common cold may be treated with over-the-counter medications. Unfortunately, Vitamin C and other cold remedies have been shown to be pretty ineffective in treating, preventing or shortening the common cold.  The best thing you can do is to take care of yourself by drinking plenty of fluids, resting and washing your hands frequently to prevent the spread of illness.

Influenza can be prevented with an annual flu shot. If you find yourself sick with symptoms of the flu, contact the Student Health Center or your medical provider as soon as possible.

More about the flu