Difference Between Cold and Flu
By Andrew Parker - June 20, 2022

Both the common cold and the Flu have been plenty enough reasons to take a sick day since the invention of capitalism. But is it possible that we might have forgotten what differentiates the common cold from the Flu in the meantime? The two illnesses also entered the international stage when the Coronavirus – a kind of Flu in its own right- shook the world to a standstill. Since then, everyone has learned to detect what makes Covid special from the incubatory period and the spectrum of unique symptoms. From the incubatory period to respiratory issues such as loss of taste and respiratory issues like shortness of breath or inability to perceive smells.

Table Summary

Onset is gradualOnset is sudden
Fevers are mild or inexistentFevers are frequent and high
Usually mild, not requiring medical assistance.It can become severe and likely cause death.
Cardboard box of paper tissues on a wooden table

Getty Images / Moment / Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography


The common cold is a mild respiratory illness caused by several viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract, which includes organs such as the nose and throat. It is more common in infants and children and lasts ten days but is expected to last longer in people who smoke.

The Flu (short for influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness routinely caused by two viruses. In cases where the latter is affected, the infection can move from mild to severe, sometimes causing death. The Flu affects the upper respiratory tract but can also spread to the lungs. It is preventable with a vaccine which is taken once a year.

Cold VS Flu

While the symptoms of a cold begin to show gradually, a Flu attack is more sudden. Signs of the common cold include a runny nose and sneezing, leading to head and body aches, sore throat, and coughing. The common cold rarely causes a fever. On the other hand, the Flu includes all the symptoms of the common cold and then some. The cough is dry, and there is a likelihood of muscle aches, diarrhea, severe fatigue, and a high fever of over 38.5 degrees Celsius.