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All types of flu have similar symptoms. Although the flu and common cold have similar symptoms, the flu tends to be more severe.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu symptoms include:
- A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Do I have the flu or a cold?
The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
When should I seek emergency medical attention?
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
I am a U.S. resident experiencing some flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, muscle aches). How do I know if I have seasonal influenza or Ebola?
Ebola virus infection can cause some similar symptoms. However, of these viruses, your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal flu. Flu is very common. Millions of people are infected, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands die from flu each year. In the United States, fall and winter is the time for flu. While the exact timing and duration of flu seasons vary, outbreaks often begin in October and can last as late as May. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February. Information about current levels of U.S. flu activity is available in CDC’s weekly FluView report.
In the United States infections with Ebola virus have been exceedingly uncommon, but there is an ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa. As of October 23, 2014 three cases of Ebola infection had been detected in the United States. One of the Ebola cases in the United States was in a traveler from an affected country in West Africa and the other two cases occurred in health care workers caring for that patient.
It is usually not possible to determine whether a patient has seasonal influenza or Ebola infection based on symptoms alone. However, there are tests to detect seasonal flu and Ebola infection. Your doctor will determine if you should be tested for these illnesses based on your symptoms, clinical presentation and recent travel or exposure history. (For information regarding the signs and symptoms of Ebola, and whether you may need to be tested, please review CDC's Ebola case definitions.)