Is it a Cold or Flu?

Flu symptoms can often be confused with the common cold, but the flu usually comes on more suddenly and is more severe than the common cold.

Symptoms of flu may include fever (usually high), headache, tiredness and weakness (can be extreme), dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body or muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (much more common among children than adults).

A person who is sick with the flu is contagious, meaning they can spread the virus. Adults can be contagious from one day before having symptoms to seven days after getting sick. Children can be contagious for even longer than seven days.

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Flu and COVID-19

What makes the flu different from COVID-19? Some symptoms are similar for both illnesses, but there are important differences. It’s important to remember you can protect yourself and your community from both illnesses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and following health and safety guidelines if you need to leave your home.

Learn more about the similarities and differences of flu and COVID-19 (CDC)

What To Do if You Get Sick

Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times lead to death.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone will have this symptom)

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

If you start to get flu symptoms, you should:

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Drink lots of liquids.

  • Don't use alcohol or tobacco.

  • Stay home from work or school to protect others from catching your illness.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze.

  • Take medication to lessen the symptoms of flu, but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, especially fever, without first checking with your health care provider.

Call your health care provider right away if you are experiencing severe flu symptoms.

Last Updated: February 8, 2023