Cold vs. Flu

Cold vs. flu

It's not always easy to tell the difference between a case of the flu and the common cold based on the symptoms alone. Learn about what your symptoms could mean and how CityMD can help.

What are the differences between a cold and a flu?

A cold is typically milder than flu symptoms, starting with a sore throat that gets better after a day or two.

  • The congestion, runny nose, cough, and slight fever may last up to a week
  • You’re most contagious in the first three days, and you’ll need to rest and stay hydrated
  • If symptoms persist past a week, you may need antibiotics to clear up a bacterial infection

The flu comes on more quickly than a cold and lasts longer.

  • Your fever may be higher, muscle aches more severe, and cough more prominent, and you may also have a headache
  • Most of the time you’ll feel better after three to five days, though some symptoms like persistent fatigue may last for a week or longer
  • The flu virus is very contagious, and frequent hand washing (especially after blowing your nose or sneezing) can help prevent its spread
  • In the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, diabetics and people with lung problems (like COPD or emphysema) or heart problems, the flu can lead to pneumonia


How are a cold and flu treated?

Both cold and flu can be treated with hydration, pain and fever reducers, and decongestants. In certain cases, especially in the early onset, antivirals may help reduce the intensity of symptoms. See a doctor if you have symptoms of a cold or the flu, especially if your illness is not improving.

At CityMD, we provide bedside tests to can check for bacterial or viral causes of cold and flu symptoms. We can also perform a digital X-ray if pneumonia is a concern. Most test results are available within minutes.

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