Difference between cold, flu and the coronavirus

June 4, 2020

Difference between cold, flu and the coronavirus
Share the article

Cold, flu and COVID 19 are all respiratory diseases and have similar symptoms. At the outset, it may seem that they are alike, but there are some distinct differences that will help you tell them apart. They are all caused by different viruses belonging to the corononavirus family, but there are clear differences in their onset, progress and severity.

This comparison chart will help you differentiate them.

Cold Flu COVID 19
Fever Rare Common Common
Cough Mild- moderate Common Common
Shortness of breath Mild Sometimes Common
Trouble breathing Rare Rare Common
Respiratory issues Sometimes Sometimes Common
Fatigue Sometimes Common Common
Runny nose Common Sometimes Sometimes
Nasal congestion Common Sometimes Sometimes
Diarrhea Rare Sometimes Sometimes
Body aches Slight Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes Sometimes
Headache Rare Common Sometimes
Loss of appetite Sometimes Common Sometimes
Chills Uncommon Fairly common Sometimes
New loss of taste and smell Sometimes Sometimes Sometimes


A runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat are common symptoms of a cold, but not common in Flu and COVID 19. Flu and COVID 19 both present symptoms such as fever of over 100and cough, but with COVID 19 you get a severe dry cough. The one defining symptom of COVID 19 is severe shortness of breath.

Respiratory issues are common only in COVID 19

While some symptoms may be common to cold, flu and COVID 19, respiratory issues are seen only in COVID 19. In 80% of the infected people, COVID 19 causes only mild or no symptoms. In about 15%, the symptoms may require hospitalization and about 5% may require ICU care.

Coronavirus can lead to severe COVID 19, which could cause pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock and death. If you have any of the symptoms, (especially trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, bluish lips or face or inability to wake up fully), please seek medical help immediately.

If you do not have any symptom, prevent infection by staying home, regularly washing hands with soap for about 20 seconds, wearing a mask when going out, staying at least 6 feet away from other people.

COVID 19 can be prevented. Let’s stay separate and work together to stop the virus.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Dr. J. Prabhakaran

Dr. J. Prabhakaran

MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine)

Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Diabetology

Chat with us!
Chat with us