How Are Pneumonia and the Flu Different?

How to Tell If You Have the Flu or Pneumonia

If you’ve ever had either the flu or pneumonia, you can probably agree that it is absolutely miserable. Since these two illnesses have so much in common (such as a high fever and cough), they often get lumped together as the same condition.

It’s important, however, to know the difference between the flu and pneumonia, as this will help to determine when (and if) you should seek medical attention. Here are the key indicators you should know to help you identify each disease.

The Flu

The flu is a viral infection stemming from the influenza virus that can be passed from person to person by coming in contact with someone who is already sick. The flu mainly attacks your lungs, nose, and throat, and symptoms typically include:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Muscle aches

  • Cough

  • Runny nose

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

Symptoms typically resolve in one to two weeks, though complications are possible. When combined with pneumonia, the flu can prove deadly and is one of the top causes of death in the United States. The flu is commonly prevented by vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months or older gets an annual flu vaccine.


Pneumonia is an infection, not a virus, however, like the flu, it is spread by airborne droplets. It inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs, causing them to possibly fill with phlegm or pus. Symptoms typically include fever, chills, and difficulty breathing, and often resolve in a few days to a week, though complications are possible.

Some forms of pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, and some types can be prevented by vaccine.

3 Signs You Have the Flu or Pneumonia

When you’re sick, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what illness or condition you have. Recognizing these facts about your current state of health can help you know when to seek medical attention.

1. How Quickly Did Your Symptoms Show Up?

If you woke up one morning feeling like a tidal wave of sickness fell over you — chances are you have the flu. The symptoms associated with the influenza virus tend to arrive so suddenly that it can be hard to pinpoint when, where, or how you became sick. Pneumonia can take several days for symptoms to become apparent.

2. What Exactly Are Your Symptoms?

While coughing is common with many illnesses, a pneumonia cough is distinct in that it brings up dark-colored phlegm that could contain blood. Mostly, pneumonia is categorized by respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, while flu symptoms are much more severe.

3. What Does Your Doctor Say?

If you’re still unsure about your condition, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Often, a doctor can automatically indicate between the two diseases, and if needed, can perform additional testing to confirm their opinion.

A nasal swab test is often used to confirm the flu, while listening to your lungs or taking a chest X-ray can indicate definitive signs of pneumonia.

Flu and Pneumonia Care in Arlington, TX

If you do believe you’ve contracted the flu or pneumonia, trying to self-diagnose is never easy. We encourage you to get checked if you have any symptoms of pneumonia, flu, or strep throat.

Our team at Urgentology Care will ensure you get an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for your illness. Stop in today for a walk-in appointment, or call to make an appointment. (817) 799-7273