Is it a cold or the flu?

The common cold and the flu can be tricky to tell apart. They’re both respiratory illnesses and they share many symptoms.

Common Cold vs. The Flu

Common Cold

  • Caused by more than 200 different viruses
  • Most people catch colds in the winter and spring, but they can occur at any time of the year
  • Contagious
  • Symptoms last a week to 10 days
  • Symptoms are usually milder
  • Complications can include acute bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Antibiotics are not an effective treatment

The Flu

  • Only influenza viruses can cause the flu
  • Flu viruses are around all year Flu Season typically occurs between October and May
  • Contagious
  • Symptoms last about two weeks
  • Symptoms can be severe
  • Complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus or ear infections
  • Antibiotics are not an effective treatment

Adults average two to three colds each year, and children average 6 to 8.

People with lung conditions like asthma are more vulnerable to colds.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get your flu shot each year.

Flu symptoms appear 1 to 4 days after a person has been exposed to the virus.

Remedies that work

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water, juice, and clear broth to prevent dehydration. It's crucial to avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas when you're sick because they can worsen dehydration.

Get rest

Your body needs rest to heal. Make sure to add as many extra hours of sleep as you can at night and a nap or two during the day.


Sip warm liquids

Make a pot of honey, lemon, and Sambucol tea or enjoy a bowl of chicken soup. Warm liquids can help to ease congestion by increasing mucus flow.

Add moisture to the air

A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can help to add moisture to the air in your home. Make sure to change the water daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Gargle with saltwater

Use 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and dissolve it into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Gargle in the morning and before bed to help clear out bacteria and loosen mucus.