Cold or Flu? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

Last updated on August 9th, 2022 at 11:15 am

Cold symptoms come on gradually, while flu symptoms arrive abruptly.

The common cold and flu may seem to have a lot in common. But there are some key differences to be aware of so you can avoid some potentially serious health complications.

Both the common cold and flu are caused by viruses. The Mayo Clinic says cold symptoms will appear gradually, while flu symptoms come on abruptly. Flu symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. People with colds have milder symptoms, like a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and a cough. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Although people with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning a day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time. People with colds are most contagious within the first three days of infection, while babies and children can spread cold germs for as long as a week.

The CDC says everyday preventive actions can help stop the spread of a cold or flu, including staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing. Even with these precautions, a person can still contract the flu. However, as soon as you feel flu-like symptoms coming on, you can take Oscillococcinum, which has been show in clinical studies to reduce the severity and duration of flu-like symptoms when taken at the onset.*

For cold symptoms, there are some homeopathic medicines that can help:

Chestal® Cold & Cough Syrup temporarily relieves symptoms of the common cold such as nasal and chest congestion, fitful cough, sneezing, minor sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.*

Chestal® Honey Syrup temporarily relieves dry cough due to minor throat and bronchial irritation as may occur with a cold.*

ColdCalm® temporarily relieves cold symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and minor sore throat.*

To find the right medicines for your symptoms, download Boiron’s Medicine Finder app.

* Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.





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2 thoughts on “Cold or Flu? Here’s How to Tell the Difference”

  1. I use the Oscilliococcinum as soon as flu symptoms occur. I continue using it, per directions for best results. It works very well for me, keeping congestion in head and chest breaking up and active so I don’t get infection from it. I’ve used it for 2 decades and cannot recommend it highly enough for all flu symptoms. Thank you, Boirion!

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