Have I got the flu?

Flu symptoms can come on suddenly,1 and early signs of the flu can be similar to those of a cold. Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu means you have a better chance of finding the right treatment to beat the flu sooner. 

Symptoms checker

Here are the early symptoms of the flu to look out for:1,2

  • Fever of 38°C - 40°C
    (although not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
    (more common in children)

Of course, everybody is different, and while some people with the flu will get all of these symptoms, others might only experience a few.1

Cold or the flu?

Unlike those associated with the flu, cold symptoms come on gradually. They include:1

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Mild/moderate cough
  • Sneezing

Colds do not usually require any specific measures beyond taking over-the-counter medications to help ease symptoms, and you can normally get these from your local pharmacy.

See if you can guess who has the flu and who just has a cold below…


Age: 42 years old

Symptoms include:
Fever (developed suddenly), weakness, stuffy nose

CHLOE has the flu

Chloe's fever developed suddenly, which is a strong sign of the flu.


Age: 17 years old

Symptoms include:
Moderate cough (developed slowly), sneezing

DAVID has a cold

David's cough was slow to develop which is indicative of a cold, rather than the flu.


Age: 5 years old

Symptoms include:
Runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea

JANICE has the flu

While a runny nose and sore throat could be signs of a cold, Janice is also suffering from diarrhoea – a symptom of the flu that’s especially common in children.

Mr. Tan

Age: 71 years old

Symptoms include:
Body aches, headache, cough

MR. TAN has the flu

While Mr. Tan’s cough could be a sign of both the flu and a cold, his body aches and headache suggest he’s got the flu.


Suspect the flu? Call or visit your doctor as soon as possible


If you feel ill with some or all of the symptoms listed above, and you suspect the flu, speak to your doctor as soon as possible to confirm a diagnosis.

Discover more about antiviral medications for the flu

Beat the flu without leaving your home

If getting to a clinic is inconvenient, you can now speak to a doctor at home via a telemedicine provider.

Doctor World, an independent medical service, connects you to Singapore-licensed GPs any time or place via a secure mobile app. The 24/7 consultation service includes delivery of medicine within 3 hours, and issuance of an electronic medical certificate for eligible patients.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu symptoms and complications. Available from: www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm.  Last accessed: February 2020.
  2. Banning M. Br J Nurs 2005; 14(22): 1192–1197.