The Difference Between A Cold and The Flu

Sneezing, coughing, aches… is it a cold or the flu?

Although the common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses caused by viruses, they are definitely not the same. It can be easy to confuse the two because the symptoms are so similar, and they both do not require antibiotics to heal.

With cold and flu season in full swing, our office is full of patients that are experiencing a lot of the same symptoms. If you are feeling lethargic and need medical attention, feel free to come into our South Coast Medical Group family practice or urgent care in Aliso Viejo. We are open every single day of the week with physicians ready to help, and no appointment is necessary.

Not sure if you have a cold or the flu? Here’s how to tell:


With over 200 different types of viruses that cause the common cold, this illness is one of the most prevalent in the United States. While both illnesses are unfortunate to have, a cold tends to be much more manageable than the flu. One of the biggest ways to tell if your illness is a cold is through the pace at which the symptoms show up. If they gradually increase within a few days but are not too severe, you most likely have a cold.

The common cold affects the throat, causes congestion and sometimes fatigue.

When you are treating a cold, make sure to:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Use a humidifier
  • Take ibuprofen to relieve aches


While colds don’t generally transform into serious illnesses, the flu can turn into a much more complicated story. If not treated, influenza can result in illnesses such as pneumonia and bacterial infections. Unlike a cold, symptoms for the flu show up altogether and very abruptly. We always recommend to our patients to get annual flu shots. Our office offers them around this time of year.

When you catch the flu, you can expect to have symptoms such as fevers, chills, cough, sore throat, and severe muscle aches.

Some ways to help fight the flu are:

  • Antiviral medicine
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Take ibuprofen for fevers

Both of these respiratory illnesses can cause major discomfort and inconvenience to our daily lives. If you want to learn how to stay healthy throughout every season of the year, be sure to follow us on Facebook.

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? Our Primary Care services are available to help treat you and your family with any health needs. You can also visit our Urgent Care services where no appointment is necessary.