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Is It a Cold or the Flu?


Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Rare Usual; high (100°F to 102°F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Rare Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe
Treatment Antihistamines
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
Antiviral medicines— see your healthcare provider
Prevention Wash your hands often with soap and water; Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold Annual vaccination; antiviral medicines—see your healthcare provider
Complications Sinus infection
Middle ear infection
Bronchitis, pneumonia; can worsen chronic conditions; can be life threatening. Complications more likely in the elderly, those with chronic conditions, young children, and pregnant women


Last Updated October 24, 2008