Is it a Cold or the Flu?

How to tell if you’ve caught the flu or just a cold. Plus, which medications can help ease your symptoms.

While spring may be around the corner, the cold and flu season is, unfortunately, not yet over. If you’re feeling under the weather, you may be wondering if what you’re experiencing is a regular cold or actually the flu. Here’s a guide to determine whether your symptoms suggest a cold or could be pointing to a more severe infection, the flu. Plus, some medication options available through Blink Health that can help you get back on your feet, quickly and affordably.

Check your symptoms (and their timing).

Despite what you may have heard, the flu isn’t just a “bad cold.” The common cold can be caused by one of over 200 viruses, while the seasonal flu is only caused by the A and B strains of the influenza virus. Common cold symptoms vary from the flu in both severity and time of onset. With the common cold, sickness progresses more gradually and typically begins with a sore throat, followed by nasal symptoms (like a runny or stuffy nose) along with a cough. With the flu, symptoms are more severe and come on suddenly. They can include a fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, aches, headache and fatigue. If you’re unsure of what type of illness you’re experiencing, check this helpful chart from the CDC below.

Consider the duration.

Symptoms of the common cold usually last for about a week. The flu, on the other hand, typically lasts about one to two weeks, with symptoms subsiding after two to three days.

Take care of yourself.

Whether you have a common cold or the flu, you should rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may also take pain relievers like Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Advil® (ibuprofen) to reduce fever and aches. You can also take decongestants like Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine) to relieve your stuffy nose or expectorants like Mucinex® (guaifenesin) to cough up mucus more easily. Check with your doctor to ensure these medications are right for you.

If you contract the flu, several antiviral drugs are also available that can help to shorten the length and severity. Two examples are Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) and Relenza® (zanamivir), which you can obtain with a prescription from your doctor. These medications work best when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset, but can potentially work if you take them after this period. While these medications can help to lessen flu symptoms and duration, vaccination is still the most effective way to prevent the flu altogether.


And always work with your doctor to ensure that you’re taking the best care of you and your symptoms. If you’ve been prescribed any medication by your doctor, always remember to check the Blink Price before going to the pharmacy.