The common cold is a viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). It’s generally not considered serious, and most people recover within a week or two. There are many viruses that can cause the common cold.
The flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus that affects your entire respiratory system—nose, throat, and lungs. Since these viruses constantly change, even if you’ve had the flu in the past, your body might be susceptible to a new strain this year.
Compare Cold & Flu Symptoms
Moderate to severe
Common and often severe
Sore throat pain
A hacking cough that brings up mucus
A cough that gets more wet within progression
Mild to moderate
How Long Will You Be Contagious with Cold & Flu?
You are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days after symptoms first appear. However, symptoms may continue to linger.
You are most contagious for the first 1 or 2 days before symptoms first appear and 5 to 7 days after symptoms develop.
The Bottom Line On Cold & Flu
Cold symptoms are generally less severe than those associated with the flu and develop gradually.
Flu symptoms develop quickly and can range from mild to severe, and may sometimes lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear infections.