Cold vs Flu: What’s the difference?
On average, adults get two to three colds per year, according to the CDC, and get a flu once every 5 years. They’re both incredibly common and have a lot of similarities.
Despite how many people get colds and flus, there are still a lot of misconceptions around them and quite a lot that people don’t know.
So to help you out, we’ve answered your most frequently asked questions at the end of this article. But first, the information we all need to know about the common cold and flu.
There are a lot of similarities between cold and flu symptoms, but the flu tends to be much more severe. In many cases the flu starts gradually and can at first seem like a cold. There are however some clear distinctions between the two, especially when looking at the type of cough, temperature, whether or not there is any mucus and if your stomach is affected.
- Blocked nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Raised temperature
- Feeling congested (like there's pressure) in your ears and face
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell
- Sudden high temperature of 38C or above
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach ache
- Feeling sick
With the cold and flu, there isn’t anything you can do to just get rid of the infection, but you can help get yourself better faster.
To speed up your recovery you can:
- Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration
- Get a lot of rest and sleep
- Stay warm
Paracetamol and ibuprofen are common choices to treat many cold and flu symptoms, and are usually included in cold and flu medication.
Unfortunately it’s not enough to keep distance from someone with a cold, as you can become infectious before symptoms start. The best way to avoid catching a cold is to:
- Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap
- Don’t share towels
- Don’t drink from the same cup as anyone unwell
- Don’t touch your eyes or nose
- Stay fit and healthy
The most effective way to prevent the flu is through the flu vaccine.
Frequently Asked Questions
A cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat, caused by a number of different viruses. The most common being the rhinovirus. You get sick from these germs entering your eyes, nose, or mouth through droplets in the air, surfaces, or direct contact with someone unwell.
Colds are incredibly contagious and you can be infectious for 2 weeks, or until all your symptoms have gone. Viruses that cause the cold can also live on surfaces for 24 hours, so it’s important that if you have a cold you’re taking precautions to protect others. Steps you can take to limit the spread of your cold are:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and immediately dispose of it
- Clean / wipe down surfaces you use
There isn’t a cure for the cold, but there is medication that can help relieve symptoms. You can get cold and flu medication from your pharmacy in person, or order them from their Healthera Online Shop if you want them delivered.
To lower your temperature or help with aches, painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen are a good choice (cough and cold medication tends to include one of these). You can also get decongestants for a blocked nose / sinuses.
If you have a cold, you can start to get a cough as well, usually about 2 to 3 days in, and this can last for about 2 weeks.
Otherwise known as influenza, the flu is an infectious disease caused by the influenza viruses.
A cough is a common symptom of the flu and tends to be dry and can be painful.
Cold and flu medication / treatments tend to be the same as long as the flu doesn’t become too severe. To treat symptoms it’s recommended you get painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol from your pharmacy. Lozenges can also help soothe your throat.
There are a lot of overlapping symptoms of sufferers from each of these, but there are some distinct symptoms that rule out another.
If you have a runny nose or headache, this is most likely to be a cold and you don’t need to get tested for covid.
If you have a high temperature, you’re unlikely to have a cold, but you could have covid, the flu, or really a number of other infections. It’s recommended that you get tested for covid in this case.
With all of these, you can get a cough, but the type of cough tends to be different:
Cold - chesty cough producing phlegm / mucus
Flu - dry cough
Covid-19 - continuous, usually dry, cough
If you’re suffering a cough, cold, flu, or even covid-19, you can order over the counter medication to help ease your symptoms on our online store and have them delivered to you. Feel free to also contact your local pharmacy through the app for recommendations about what would be best for you. - Click here to open the app
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