What Is the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

Sep 15, 2019 | Health Tips

The terms cold and flu are often interchanged, but they are not the same thing. Although a lot of the symptoms between a cold and the flu are very similar, there are key differentiators between the two. To understand the severity of your child’s sickness, this is the difference between symptoms of a cold and symptoms of the flu.

The Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, but it might not feel that way.


  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Coughing
  • Post-nasal Drip
  • Watery Eyes
  • Mild Head and Body Aches


If your child is suffering from the common cold, they should be getting plenty of rest

and drink plenty of fluids.  A nasal saline spray and/or a cool-mist humidifier may help decrease congestion.

The Flu

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can range from mild to severe.


  • Fever
  • Runny/Stuffy Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery Eyes
  • Headaches
  • Muscle/Body Aches
  • Chest Discomfort


If you think your child has developed the flu, visit a medical provider as soon as possible.


If you are worried and your doctor’s office is closed, PUCNC is there with extended hours to help make sure your child gets the care they need.


Read Tips for Preventing Sickness in the Fall here.