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Cold Versus Flu

Because the common cold and seasonal influenza (flu) share many symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

Generally speaking:

  1. The flu is worse than the common cold.
  2. Serious complications can occur from the flu, whereas they are rare from a cold.
  3. Treatment is available to shorten the length of the flu, whereas there is no cure for the common cold.

The SXU Health Center is able to do rapid flu testing on-site with results in 20 minutes. If you think you may have the flu, please call 773-298-3712 for an appointment.

Signs and Symptoms Cold Influenza
Symptom Onset Gradual Abrupt
Fever Rare in adults and other children Usually 102 degrees, but can go up in 104 degrees and can last 3-4 days
Headache Rare Sudden onset and can be severe
Muscle Aches Mild Usual and often severe
Tiredness and Weakness Mild Can last 2 or more weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Sudden onset and can be severe
Runny Nose Often Sometimes
Sneezing Often Sometimes
Sore Throat Often Sometimes
Cough Mild to moderate Usual and can become severe