Symptoms offer clues in telling cold and flu apart

We've all heard someone mention that they have a touch of the flu. But was it the flu, or was it a really bad cold?

It can be difficult to tell them apart as symptoms can be very similar. While the common cold can make you feel really sick, the flu can lead to serious health problems like pneumonia.

Here's some information on how symptoms may present differently in a cold versus the flu.

Fever. Rare in a cold, but quite common with the flu. It usually starts suddenly and can last up to three or four days.

General aches and pains. You can experience these with a cold, but they are typically mild. With the flu, aches and pains are very common and often severe — they have been described as feeling like you've been run over by a truck.

Feeling tired and weak. If you have a cold, you can sometimes feel tired and weak, but the feeling will often be quite mild. However, that feeling is very common with the flu, and this can last two to three weeks or even more.

Fatigue. It is very unusual to experience extreme tiredness with a cold, so if you have this symptom it's a good sign that you may have the flu. It is quite common to feel extremely tired with the flu and this usually starts early.

Sneezing. While sneezing happens often with a cold, you are likely to only sneeze sometimes when you have the flu.

Chest discomfort and/or coughing. You can on occasion experience mild-to-moderate chest discomfort and/or coughing with a cold –but it can be severe with the flu.

If you think it's the flu, stay home and get plenty of rest. Call your doctor or nurse practitioner if you don't start to feel better after a few days, or if you feel worse.

Anyone who is in a high-risk group such as seniors, children under five, pregnant women and individuals with underlying health conditions such as asthma should contact their primary health care provider as soon as they experience any of the above flu symptoms. Find more information online at