While both are respiratory illnesses, the flu and the common cold differ in the matter of severity — both caused by different viruses.

It is difficult to differentiate between the two as the symptoms can be very similar in most cases. However, the intensity of the symptoms differs in both cases, with the flu being much worse than the common cold — which is usually milder. A runny or stuffy nose is more closely associated with the colds and do not usually end in more serious health problems. Bacterial infections or hospitalizations with the common cold are rare but the flu can have very serious complications associated with it.

A cold is a milder respiratory illness, which can make you feel under the weather for a few days. The most common symptoms of a cold are:

  • runny or stuffy nose
  • sore throat
  • sneezing
  • mild-to-moderate fever
  • cough
  • headache or body aches
  • mild tiredness

The symptoms associated with the flu are similar to cold symptoms but are more severe in their onset. It can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and require hospitalization:

  • dry, hacking cough
  • moderate-to-high fever (not for all patients)
  • sore throat
  • shaking chills
  • severe muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • profound fatigue (may last up to two weeks)