As is the case with all viruses, though, prevention is the key, and the precautions are the same as with the common cold—hygiene and, if possible during outbreaks, isolation.

Know the Difference

The biggest difference between these two common viral infections is, as we’ve learned, the suddenness of the symptoms’ onset, and the presence of fever and chills. The symptoms of the flu are much more severe than those of a cold, and tend to keep us home from work and school. You can use this handy chart to help you tell if you have a cold or the flu.

If you think you have the flu, see your doctor—even if you’re otherwise healthy. But be especially vigilant for persistent fever and coughing, painful swallowing, and extreme congestion and headaches. These symptoms can indicate a severe infection. Some symptoms require emergency treatment, namely, severe chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and confusion.

This cold and flu season, remain vigilant, keep hygiene in mind, and use these tips to differentiate between these two common diseases.