The symptoms of a cold can include:
- Sore throat
- Fever and muscle aches (if the cold is severe)
- A blocked and stuffy nose
- Runny nose
Recognising the signs
The first sign of a cold is usually a dry, scratchy sore throat which experts believe may be due to the virus infecting the back of the nose. You may also start sneezing early on, and your nose may start to 'run'. Typically these symptoms will come on over a couple of days – but you will have unwittingly been carrying the virus round before the first symptoms appear for a day or two before that.
The symptoms of flu* include:
*Influenza, not gastric or 'stomach' flu.
If you feel a fever come on all of a sudden and are really struggling with more severe cold-like symptoms but have aches and pains too – perhaps even to the point that you can barely get out of bed – it is more likely to be the flu, and not a cold.
Why the fever?
One of the main symptoms that differentiates the flu from a common cold is the high fever. As unpleasant as a fever may be, the rise in temperature - caused by chemicals called pyrogens - is your body's way of attempting to kill infective agents that have entered your system.
Some people think flu is just a bad cold and on paper, there is not a lot to separate the two.
However, with flu the fever and muscle aches are far worse and symptoms come on much more quickly – hence the saying 'struck down by flu'. You could be having a normal morning and by teatime be laid up in bed with a fever running as high as 40°C.
The good news is that there are far fewer flu viruses – only three (type A, B & C, but with many different strains), compared to over 200 colds...