Flu symptoms

Many people think flu is just a very bad cold, but in fact the two illnesses are completely different. Some of the symptoms of flu and colds are similar, but flu can be a serious illness while a cold just involves a few days of feeling under the weather.1

These are the main ways you can tell the difference, although not everyone will have the same symptoms.


  • You suddenly feel unwell and develop a high temperature
  • You may be shivering or sweating
  • You get aches and pains in your muscles
  • You feel exhausted, needing to lie down
  • You may have a chesty cough
  • Your symptoms last for around a week, but the tiredness can last longer


  • Your symptoms come on gradually
  • You develop a runny and/or blocked nose
  • You are sneezing and may have a sore throat
  • You may develop a cough
  • The worst of the symptoms can last for 1-2 days
  • After a few days, you feel distinctly better

If caught quickly (within 48 hours), flu can be treated with the risk of serious complications reduced. Even if you’ve had your symptoms for 48 hours or more, it’s still important that you get advice from a healthcare professional.

Where can I get more advice on treating my symptoms?

Visit NHS Choices for the NHS advice on treating flu. If any of your symptoms are severe, they get worse, or they have not improved after one week you should contact your doctor’s surgery.