How can I tell if I have a cold or the flu?
Although the common cold and the flu share many similar symptoms, they are 2 different conditions.
The symptoms of a cold develop slowly and can include:
- Fever up to 102°F
- Runny or stuffy nose (often with green- or yellow-colored discharge)
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Watery eyes
Cold symptoms generally are milder than flu symptoms.
Flu symptoms usually appear suddenly and can include:
- Fever over 102°F
- Stuffy nose
- Chills and sweats
- Muscle aches, especially in your back, arms and legs
- Loss of appetite
What is H1N1 flu?
The H1N1 influenza (also called swine influenza or swine flu) is a respiratory infection caused by a virus found in pigs. H1N1 flu can infect humans. For more information, see H1N1 Influenza.
Should I call my doctor?
In most cases, you don't need to see your doctor when you have a cold or the flu. However, if you have any of the symptoms in the box below, call your doctor.
Call your doctor if you have these cold and flu symptoms:
- High fever (above 103°F), or a fever that lasts for more than 3 days
- Symptoms that last for more than 10 days
- Trouble breathing, fast breathing or wheezing
- Bluish skin color
- Earache or drainage from the ear
- Changes in mental state (such as not waking up, irritability or seizures)
- Flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with a fever and a worse cough
- Worsening of a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes or heart disease)
- Vomiting or abdominal pain
- A high, prolonged fever (above 102°F) with fatigue and body aches
- Symptoms that last for more than 10 days or get worse instead of better
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Fainting or feeling like you are about to faint
- Confusion or disorientation
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Severe sinus pain in your face or forehead
- Very swollen glands in the neck or jaw
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff