How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu. The best answer is you can’t unless you see a doctor. Most often, though, you won’t need to see a physician because the severity of the symptoms are your best indicators. A cold is generally much less severe in symptoms than the flu. A cold will give you a runny or stuffy nose, some headache and mild fever and cough. Generally you can get symptom relief with over-the-counter medicines. A cold will last for just a few days in the normally healthy person.
On the other hand, the flu will send you right to bed. Typical symptoms include a really bad headache, fatigue, respiratory distress, muscle or body aches, sore throat and a cough. Symptom relief only comes with a doctor’s prescription for an antiviral drug, and then you have to get out of bed to get it. With the flu you need to watch your symptoms carefully because if they worsen significantly, you could end up in the hospital with pneumonia or something worse.