Cold Symptoms – Flu vs Cold

Woman in bed with cold

Sometimes when we wake up feeling a little achy, a tingling in the back of the throat and a stuffy nose, it can be difficult to tell whether it’s a common cold or the Flu which appears to have snuck up on us in the night. In order for us to be able to treat the offending infection, we have put together some symptoms to tell the difference and deal with the virus in the correct way.


Woman in bed with cold








Symptoms of a Common Cold

Day 1 – Sore Throat, usually continues for a day or two, then disappears

Days 2-5 – Nasal Symptoms, runny nose and cough usually begin and continue for the life of the cold. Mucus from the nose begins as a watery discharge and as the days progress, becomes thicker and darker. Congestion builds and the nose can get completely blocked, preventing breathing through the nose.

You are highly contagious for the first 3 days of the cold, so avoid contact with others, if possible.

Days 6-7 – A common cold should only last for around a week, so by days 6 and 7, congestion should be easing, breathing ought to be much easier and other symptoms diminishing. If your symptoms are not showing signs of abating by day 7, there is a possibility you could have a bacterial infection, sinusitis or have developed an allergy, so get to a doctor to be checked out.

Symptoms of the Flu

Days 1-2 – Flu symptoms tend to occur very quickly, with the initial indications being a high temperature, muscle aches, headache and sore throat.

Days 3-5 – Cough and congestion will most likely appear, but unlike a cold, a fever and aching body is usually the way to tell the difference between the Flu and a cold. The symptoms should be starting to ease between these days. If not, ensure that shortness of breath or a returning high temperature is reported to a doctor. These can often indicate further infection, such as Pneumonia.

Concerns to be Reported to a Doctor

If a Fever is Persistent

If a high temperature is not going down after 3 days, a bacterial infection may have occurred and will need to be checked as soon as possible.

If Swallowing is Painful

If a sore throat has increased to a point where drinking or eating is difficult, then there is a possibility it could be Tonsillitis or Strep Throat, in this case, antibiotics will be required.

If a Cough is Persistent or You Have Difficulty Breathing

If a nasty, hacking cough has developed and breathing is shallow, or the patient is finding it hard to catch their breath, Bronchitis may have developed and will most likely need antibiotics.

If You Have Persistent Congestion and Headaches

Although colds and Flu can cause congestion in the nose and chest, if there is continual pain around the nose, eyes and cheeks, a sinus infection could be the cause.

Prevention of Flu and the Common Cold

It is possible to avoid catching these viruses by taking certain precautions:

  • Wash your hands regularly. This helps to wash away any possible germs that you may have picked up from areas where germs hang around, such as; door knobs, lift buttons, phones, keyboards etc
  • Boost your immune system. Taking a probiotic gives your immunity a lift, helping to fight off possible viruses
  • Avoid Infected People. Cover your mouth and nose if there are people who are sneezing/coughing around you
  • Eat Well. Fill up on foods containing plenty of vitamins, enabling your immunity the chance to fight infection
  • Get plenty of sleep. Your system can fend off viruses when it’s had the optimum levels of sleep. Between 7-9 hours is recommended