Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff and is brought to you by Reckitt Benckiser.

Colds and the flu have so much in common that it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart. Both are caused by viruses that infect your airways. They have some of the same symptoms that can leave you feeling miserable.

There are enough differences, though, that may help you figure out which one you have. That can make a difference in what you do to treat your symptoms and keep it from going around.


You can get a cold anytime -- spring, summer, or fall, but most likely in winter. Flu season typically runs from November through March, although you can get the flu in October or as late as May.

You can catch the flu at other times. But symptoms outside of flu season are more likely to be from a cold or an allergy.

Flu symptoms usually come on faster than cold symptoms. Colds may take 2 or 3 days to develop. Normally, you start feeling the flu over just 2 to 3 hours.

Flu tends to be much worse than a cold. And the flu, especially in children and older people, is more likely to lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia and a hospital stay.






Fever between 100 and 102 F in most cases; typically lasts 3-4 days


Not common

About half of people with flu get them.

Muscle or body aches

Not common. If they do happen, usually mild

Common and often severe


Not common

Most cases; may be sudden

Fatigue, weakness

May happen, generally mild

Moderate to severe fatigue and weakness; may last up to 2-3 weeks


Common, generally mild to moderate, usually produces phlegm

Dry cough (no phlegm) that may be severe; may last several weeks

Sneezing and stuffy nose

Common. Stuffy nose may last about a week.


Sore throat



Chest discomfort

Sometimes; generally mild

Common; may be severe

Vomiting and diarrhea


Unusual; most often in children

Rarely, symptoms may not be enough for your doctor to know if it's a cold or the flu. Then your doctor may do a test to find out what you have.

All About the Flu

How long you're contagious and other flu facts.

View More

Is it a cold or the flu?

Test your knowledge.

View More