Cino's Hot Bagels

Cino’s Hot Bagels
2941 Long Beach Rd, Oceanside, NY 11572
(516) 442-5301


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How to Tell the Difference Between the Flu & Common Cold

Girl sneezing on white background “Oh, my aching head!” Sound familiar? We have all felt this way at one time or another. Maybe you’re coughing too! Chances are you got the bug! But what bug is it you’ve got? If you’ve ever felt like you’re getting sick or you’ve tried to cough up something that just won’t come out, you’re most likely to start wondering what is it that you actually have and if it is a cold or something worse, like the flu or maybe even covid?

How Can You Tell the Difference Between the Flu and a Cold?

Cold and flu are medical terms that mean you’re feeling under the weather. The two are related but they’re not the same. When you have these symptoms, you’re probably feeling miserable and your body is aching. You may also feel exhausted and irritable. With either set of symptoms, these illnesses are caused by a viral infection. You can tell the difference between the cold and the flu based on the severity of your symptoms and the duration of your illness. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you make a final decision. The video below is a good starting point.

What are the Signs of the Common Cold and Flu?

As we mentioned, these two infections are caused by viruses. They do have some similarities but there are differences. The common cold is caused by viruses that affect your nose and throat, while the flu is caused by viruses that affect your respiratory system. Symptoms of a cold include:
      • Runny nose
      • Snot, or mucus in the nose
      • Sneezing
      • Cough
      • Muscle and body aches
      • Fatigue
      • Chills
Symptoms of the flu include:
      • Fever (this may be the only symptom you have, but it’s important to remember)
      • Headaches
      • Diarrhea and vomiting (which are also signs of the stomach flu)
      • Chest pain
      • Shortness of breath
      • Wheezing (breathing may sound wheezy even when you’re not coughing)

Cold Symptoms

Cold symptoms often begin three to five days after you have been infected with a virus. The symptoms can last from two to seven days but most people recover in one to three days. Your cold is likely to begin with a runny nose and sore throat. You may feel feverish during this time. This may be followed by a cough that produces thick mucus. This mucus may be green or yellow in color. You may or may not have a sore throat, either on the roof of your mouth (a sore throat) or in your throat. Your sore throat may be accompanied by mild pain, either in your throat or neck area. Your sore throat may also be accompanied by a mild fever. If you have a sore throat, you should drink plenty of liquids and rest.


Cough is the most common cold symptom. Coughing is your body’s way of trying to get rid of mucus. It will usually start two to three days after your sore throat. The mucus from your sore throat will move into your lungs. Once in your lungs, it will be coughed up and spit into your throat. You may cough due to irritation of your throat or due to irritation of your lungs. You will cough until you produce mucus and clear your airway. If you have a sore throat and you cough, there’s a good chance you’ll cough up mucus.

Flu Symptoms

The flu is a viral infection that affects your respiratory system. If you find you have a fever, you most likely do have the flu.  Fever is a sign that your immune system is revved up. Your body is trying to fight off a virus and when you have a fever, your immune system is doing a harder job of fighting the virus off. The fever will last from one day to three days, followed by a period of feeling feverish. Your fever will increase from normal body temperature to about 101 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Other flu symptoms may include:
      • Headaches
      • Dry cough
      • Chest pain
      • Cough that produces thick, yellow mucus
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Nausea
      • Muscle aches
      • Runny or stuffy nose
You may or may not have a sore throat. Your sore throat may be accompanied by mild pain or tenderness in your throat. You may also have a sore throat accompanied by a cough. The cough may produce thick yellow mucus. As you can see, the flu virus is more severe than a cold and can last longer. The flu can lead to other complications such as pneumonia. This virus is also contagious and if you’re sick, you can infect others, even if they don’t have similar symptoms as you do.


A sore throat (pharyngitis) can turn into pneumonia if not treated promptly. Pneumonia is an infection in your lungs. When you have a sore throat, the mucus in your sore throat can turn into bacteria. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as your sore throat may be a sign of pneumonia. Note that a sore throat can also be a sign of an allergic reaction. If you have this symptom and you’re experiencing hives, difficulty breathing, or wheezing, you should seek medical attention as well.

How to Avoid Getting Sick

Photo of man washing handsWashing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to stay healthy when outside and eating foods that will help strengthen your immune system is a definite go! But if you do feel sick, you should follow the same precautions as with covid – stay away from people or quarantine if necessary.


Cold and flu symptoms are both caused by a virus, The mucus in a cold is a bit thicker than the mucus in the flu. If a sore throat is present, your throat may be red and painful. If you have a fever, that is a good indication that you have the flu. Cold symptoms usually begin three to five days after you have been infected with the virus. We’d like to close by saying that if you feel any of these symptoms mentioned above, don’t wait for a fever to come (if it comes at all). Make an educated decision if you should see medical attention or not. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!