Do I Have a Cold, the Flu, or COVID-19? How to Tell the Difference

Oct 01, 2023

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Do I Have a Cold, the Flu, or COVID-19? How to Tell the Difference

You're fatigued, have a sore throat and congestion. It’s a cold, right? Or is it the flu? Maybe COVID-19? It's a question many of us will ask ourselves over the coming months. Knowing which illness you have is vital so you can seek appropriate treatment and speed recovery. 

The experts at Memorial Health Urgent Care and Infusions, located in Katy, TX, have you covered. Here they explain how to tell what’s causing your symptoms and pointers on staying healthy this fall and winter.

What's causing your symptoms?

The symptoms of colds, the flu, and COVID-19 overlap, but there are distinct differences that can help you pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. 

Cold Symptoms

The common cold is usually characterized by mild symptoms that come on gradually. You might experience:

  • Runny or stuffy nose: A cold often starts with a runny or stuffy nose, accompanied by sneezing.
  • Sore throat: You may have a scratchy or sore throat, which can be uncomfortable but is typically not severe.
  • Cough: A mild, dry cough is common with a cold.
  • Fatigue: Cold symptoms are usually milder, and fatigue is not as pronounced as with the flu or COVID-19.

Flu Symptoms

The flu tends to hit harder and more suddenly than a cold. Look out for these signs:

  • High fever: A fever, often over 100°F (38°C), is a common flu symptom.
  • Body aches: Severe muscle and body aches can be quite debilitating.
  • Fatigue: You'll likely feel exhausted and weak.
  • Headache: Flu-related headaches can be intense.
  • Dry cough: A dry cough can accompany the flu but is typically more severe than a cold.

COVID-19 symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe and sometimes include:

  • Fever: Like the flu, COVID-19 can cause a fever, often over 100°F (38°C).
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath is a concerning symptom.
  • Loss of taste or smell: This is a unique symptom associated with COVID-19.
  • Persistent cough: A dry cough is common, and it can linger.
  • Fatigue: Extreme fatigue is possible, similar to the flu.
  • Sore throat: Some individuals with COVID-19 experience a sore throat.

Prevention methods for all three common illnesses are mostly the same. 

Preventing Illness

The providers at  Memorial Health Urgent Care and Infusions offer their patients the following tips:


Get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. Vaccines can significantly reduce the severity of these illnesses.

Hand hygiene

Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Face masks

Wear a mask in crowded or indoor settings, especially if you're not feeling well or in high-risk areas.

Social distancing

Maintain physical distance from those who are sick or showing symptoms.

Good respiratory hygiene

 Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Seeking medical help

If you suspect you have COVID-19 or are experiencing severe flu symptoms, such as high fever and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention promptly. Testing and early intervention are critical. Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter remedies can help alleviate symptoms of colds and mild cases of the flu.

If you're uncertain about your symptoms or their severity, don't hesitate to contact Memorial Health Urgent Care and Infusions in Katy, Texas. We also serve patients from Cypress, Flushear, Brookshire, Sealy, Houston, and Richmond, Texas. Call today or use this website to set up your appointment.