Do you know how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu? Most people probably can't. What difference does it make anyway? Actually, it's more important than you might think.

Usually a cold isn't that big of a deal. You may feel snuffly and congested and out of sorts for a few days, but on the whole, this type of illness tends to run its course quickly.

Flu, on the other hand, is a much more unpleasant condition. And it can progress to a life-threatening case of pnumonia, often before you even realize it. So, how can you tell the difference? Let's look at the symptoms of both, and find out.

Cold Symptoms

The fastest way to find out what you're dealing with is to take your temperature. Flu comes on fast, and starts hard, with a high temperature, 100 to 102 degrees in adults, and even higher in kids. With a cold, adults usually don't run a temperature, although children may have a mild fever.

Your common garden-variety cold usually starts with a sore throat. This generally goes away in a day or two. You may feel tired or weak, but it's not the body-numbing exhaustion that's often one of the first symptoms of influenza.

Within a couple of days, you develop a runny nose, followed by nasal congestion. You may have a sinus headache. By the fourth or fifth day, a hacking cough follows. All in all, your symptoms last about a week before they start to dissipate.

These maladies are caused by hundreds of different viruses, which is why we can't develop immunity to them. It's also why antibiotics are useless against these illnesses.

If it hangs on for longer than a week, it may have become a bacterial infection like sinusitis, or it may actually be an allegy instead.

Flu Symptoms

As unpleasant as a cold is, the flu is much worse. Influenza starts with a high fever that can linger for several days, along with a feeling of complete and utter exhaustion.

A nasty headache, coupled with severe muscle and body aches, adds to your misery. A deep chest-rattling cough, along with a feeling of tightness in your chest will follow. And if you're really lucky, you'll have the stomach bug, with vomiting and diarrhea.

The worst symptoms usually pass within two to five days, although you may feel tired and run-down for a couple more weeks. It can be hard to shake the after-effects, especially if your immune system isn't up to the battle.

The virus can progress to pneumonia, especially in the very young, the elderly, and folks with heart and lung problems. Watch for shortness of breath, and a fever that goes away, but then comes roaring back within a day or two. Don't wait around if this happens; seek medical care as soon as you can.

Is it a cold or the flu? It's important to know the difference.

Author's Bio: 

Want to take charge of your own health, but don't know where to begin? Start with a visit to Natural Health And Wellness Tips, where Darlene Norris shares the latest buzz on natural health. Darlene is a mom and grandma who has been using natural remedies for many years to keep her family healthy and happy.

Read articles on health and healing, sign up for a natural remedies newletter, and download ebooks filled with herbal cures. Shoot Darlene an email with your natural health questions, and let her know what YOU want her to write about next! Don't wait, visit now to get started.