How To Tell If You Have A Cold Or The Flu

It’s that time of year again: hacking cough, drippy nose and a fever. How do you know if that tickle in the back of your throat is the symptom of a cold or a sign that you’re about to come down with the flu? And is it the seasonal flu or the H1N1 flu?

Check out this list of symptoms from the Federal Citizen Information Center and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health to help answer your question.


Do you have…

A fever?
It might be the flu: Fevers are rare with common colds, but almost always accompany the flu.

A sore throat?
It might be a cold: It’s normal to have a sore throat with a cold, but less likely with the flu.

A headache?
It might be the flu: Rare with a cold, common with the flu.

It might be the flu: Mild aches can sometimes be signs of a cold. Severe aches are a good indicator of the flu.

It might be the flu: Not likely with a cold, almost always with the flu.

A stuffy nose?
It might be a cold: Very likely to be the symptom of a cold, but can occasionally be associated with the flu.

If your symptoms tend to fall more on the cold side of the spectrum, your best bet is to get lots of rest and fluids. You should start to feel better in a few days. If your symptoms are more flu-like, head to the doctor, who can determine the best form of treatment and test whether it’s H1N1 or the seasonal flu.

For more information on symptoms, remedies and preventing the flu, visit’s Flu page ( and read The Flu ( and Is It a Cold Or the Flu ( fact sheets.

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