When you wake up sneezing, coughing, and have that achy, feverish, can’t move a muscle feeling, how do you know whether you have cold symptoms or the flu?

It’s important to know the difference between flu and cold symptoms. A cold is a milder respiratory illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.

Other Clues

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 it in October or as late as May. You can catch the flu at other times of the year. But symptoms outside of flu season are more likely to be from a cold or an allergy.

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.

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