How to Know if You Have a Cold

The common cold and the flu are both contagious upper respiratory infections. They share a number of symptoms, but the flu typically includes chills, body aches, high fever, and fatigue. If you experience common symptoms of a runny nose, sore throat, and mild cough without a high fever or intense body aches, you most likely have a cold and are not suffering from the flu.

Common Cold Symptoms

how to know if you have a coldA cold usually passes quickly but can last for as long as two weeks. The symptoms are usually all above the neck (nose, throat, sinuses, and head) and build up over a two day period.

Common cold symptoms include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Mild-to-moderate fever (more likely in children)
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Mild fatigue

Signs of the Flu

When the flu strikes, it usually strikes with a vengeance and is much more relentless than a cold.

The most common flu symptoms are:

  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Moderate-to-high fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Intense muscle and body aches
  • Headache
  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Extreme fatigue (which can last up to two weeks)

Some individuals may also experience vomiting and diarrhea as a result of the flu.

Do You Have a Cold or the Flu?

While some symptoms of the common cold and the flu are similar, there are definite differences between the two viruses, as mentioned above.

Here is a quick contrasting guide to the most noteable symptomatic differences between the two:


  • Cold - Sometimes evident, though typically mild
  • Flu - Frequently around 100-102℉ and generally lasts about three or four days


  • Cold - Occasionally present
  • Flu - Common

General aches and pains:

  • Cold - Slight
  • Flu - Severe

Extreme exhaustion:

  • Cold - Not typical
  • Flu - Expected

Know if You Have a Cold by Visiting FastMed Urgent Care

how to know if you have a coldIf your cold doesn’t improve after a week, it’s a good idea to talk to a medical professional. You could potentially have the flu, seasonal allergies, or a bacterial infection which could be treated with antibiotics.

The medical professionals at FastMed Urgent Care provide care that is fast, high quality, and affordable. Our goal is to get you in, treated, and back on your way in under an hour.

We offer extended weekday hours and weekend availability, so we’re here when you need to know if you have a cold and how to treat it!

Explore our Health Resources Center for more answers to your health questions, and check out what one of our FastMed Urgent Care patients has to say about our quality care:

"Being sick stinks, but my experience at the urgent care clinic was top notch. ALL of the staff were kind, helpful, and good listeners. The medical center was much more attractive than the typical walk-in clinic and the service was amazing. If I had to feel bad enough to see a family doctor, at least I was fortunate to have a clinic like this one nearby. Thank you!!!" - Kim. R.

The content presented on this page is not intended to diagnose health problems or take the place of professional medical care.