Health Topics & Information

Colds and Flu

Colds and Flu (including H1N1)

It is sometimes hard to tell if you have a cold or the flu (also called influenza), because their symptoms are so similar. However, the flu may be more dangerous for your health than a cold, because it can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia – so it is important to know the difference between the two. Here are some similarities and differences:

Common Symptoms of Cold

  • Starts gradually, usually last less than one week

  • Feeling a little tired

  • Coughing

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • No fever or just a slight fever (1-2 degrees above normal)

  • Milder muscle aches, headache, watery eyes

Common Symptoms of Flu

  • Starts quickly, usually last for a couple of weeks

  • Feeling very weak and tired

  • Severe coughing

  • Runny nose

  • No sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

  • More severe muscle aches, chills, headache, eye pain

Is there medicine that can help you feel better? Once you are sick with a cold or the flu, no antibiotics or any other medicine will cure you. You should only take antibiotics when your doctor tells you that you really need them. Non-prescription cough and cold medicine may help reduce your symptoms, especially if you take it right after you get sick. Do NOT give aspirin or other “salicylates” to children or teenagers who have a cold or the flu! Young people may get sick or even die from a condition called Reye’s Syndrome, which is linked to salicylate-containing medicines and cold or flu symptoms. So, make sure to read labels carefully and ask your doctor for more information.


There are things you can do to feel better:
  • Drink fluids like water, fruit juices and clear soups
  • Rest as much as you can
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
  • For a sore throat, gargle with salt water several times a day, or use throat sprays or lozenges

Helpful Resources:

Tips to Treat a Cold & the Flu
last updated: April 26, 2022

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