Generic Photo of Flu Patient. (Photo: Thinkstock)
(USA TODAY) -- Flu season usually peaks in January or February, when many people also get winter colds. So how do you tell the difference?
Colds and flu can share some of the same symptoms, says emergency medicine specialist Hans House of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Where they differ is severity: "You can usually still function with a cold. When you have that high fever and your whole body aches ... that's probably the flu," he says.
Differences cited by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
Fever. Rare for a cold, common with flu. Can exceed 102 degrees, and persist three or four days.
Headache, body aches. Rare for a cold, common and often severe with the flu.
Fatigue. Possible with colds, but flu usually starts with exhaustion; fatigue can last two or three weeks.
Sneezing, sore throat. Most frequent with a cold, but also occur sometimes with flu.
Chest discomfort, cough. Mild to moderate with colds, but can be severe with flu.
Either way, get plenty of rest and drink fluids (to thin mucus, prevent dehydration.) But if you're very weak, running a high fever, having trouble breathing or symptoms worsen, contact a medical provider.