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How Do I, An Average Guy Who Likes to Fake Being Sick Sometimes, Know Whether I Should Tell My Boss If I Have a Cold or the Flu?

Seriously, unless you want to get fired, you don’t want to confuse these two

‘Tis almost the season to call in sick: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu generally strikes most often between December and March. “Other illnesses that show up most often in winter include the common cold,” reports The Chicago Tribune. Now, whether you’re actually sick or you’re just not in the mood to peel yourself out of a warm bed and onto the cold tile bathroom floor all in the name of maintaining your insignificant place in the capitalist-industrial complex, is an entirely different matter.

Either way, it behooves you, regular guy who may or may not be sick, to get your maladies straight. Why? For one, because if you tell your boss you have the flu and you show up to work the next day, feeling spritely and full of the best ideas you’ve had in months, he or she is going to know that you’re full of absolute shit. Likewise, if you take a week off for a cold, you’re going to get canned.

So let’s learn the difference, or next time you come back from a fake sick day, you’ll find your desk has been filled by another average guy named Steven who spells his name with a ‘ph.’

Not that asshole?

Yes, that asshole.

Okay, fine. But wait, there’s a difference between a cold and the flu?

Honestly man, I hurt for you.

I didn’t come here to be ridiculed, I came here to educate myself in subterfuge. So spill: What’s the difference between the cold and the flu?

Well, they do have a few things in common, chief among them being that they’re both caused by respiratory viruses that infect your airways. But that aside, if you take one thing away with you from this article, it’s the fact that a cold is a far milder respiratory illness than the flu. “While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks,” reports WebMD. Which is why if you’re lying about being sick, and you tell your boss you’ve got the flu, you might as well go all in and take a week-and-a-half vacation.

That’s a pretty good tip! But let’s say I’m not lying and I actually want to know what I’m in for. What are the different symptoms between the two?

According to Healthline, the common cold can be caused by 100 different viruses and is contagious for the first two to four days after coming in contact with it. “However, the rhinovirus is most often the one that makes people sneeze and sniffle, and it’s highly contagious,” reports Healthline.

You can technically catch a cold at any time of year, but they’re more common during the winter months. “This is because most cold-causing viruses thrive in low humidity,” according to the same Healthline report. As for symptoms, the cold usually begins with a sore throat, runny nose and congestion and finishes off with a cough on the third or fourth day. “Fever is uncommon in adults, but a slight fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold,” per WebMD.

On the other hand, flu symptoms are much more severe and render you a public hazard starting one day before you get sick, and up to five to seven days after you show symptoms. “The flu is caused by the influenza virus and lasts about 5 to 7 days,” reports Cedars Sinai Blog. “Symptoms of seasonal flu typically include fever, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. The best way to avoid getting the flu is by getting a flu shot, which takes about two weeks after injection to start protecting you from the flu virus.”

I’m not that stupid — they do, in fact, have overlapping symptoms.

Sure, but keep in mind that while neither the cold or the flu generally require a trip to the doctor, the flu can be life-threatening for those with reduced immunity. Victoria Kang, an urgent care physician at Cedars Sinai Hospital, told the Cedars’ blog that she recommends seeking medical attention if you experience shortness of breath or trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or stomach, dizziness when standing, decreased urination, confusion, inability to keep fluids down or a fever lasting more than 48 hours. “If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your primary care doctor or urgent care as soon as possible,” she explained.

So there you have it, average guy with formerly below average lies. Now you can call in sick the right way, even if only so you can be a little less paranoid about taking a break from milling your way in the proverbial coal mine.