GEHA stands by those who are affected by recent storms. GEHA Customer Service (including member ID lookup): 800.821.6136 Learn more

Health eReport - November 2017 Health e-Report


Is it cold or flu?

Flu and cold have similar symptoms, and can easily be confused. While both conditions are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses, cold is generally milder than flu. Though most people recover from flu in a week or more, in some cases flu can result in serious health complications that can lead to hospitalization or death.

The chart below may help you identify the likely cause of your symptoms. Your doctor can run special tests to definitively determine whether you are suffering from cold or flu. 

Signs and symptoms  Influenza Cold
symptom onset abrupt gradual
fever usual; lasts 3-4 days rare
ache usual; often severe slight
chills  fairly common uncommon
fatigue, weakness usual sometimes
sneezing sometimes common
stuffy nose sometimes common
sore throat sometimes common
chest discomfort, cough common; can be severe mild to moderate; hacking cough
headache common rare

Table reprinted courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of severe flu illness, seek medical help immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or confustion
  • Severe vomiting
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Persistent fever or cough

“Cold versus Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Aug. 2016,

“Flu Symptoms and Complications.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 July 2017,