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I’ve caught a cold! It must be a virus! You must have man flu! Oh no, it must be the FLU!!

There are a lot of names for the same group of symptoms and it can be very confusing to know what you have, how to treat it, whether time off work is needed and, importantly, if you need to see a doctor.

Below is a simple way to break down the similarities and differences between a cold and the flu:

COLD INFLUENZA (FLU)
Symptoms include stuffy nose, sore throat, headaches, tiredness and joint/muscle aches Symptoms include stuffy nose, sore throat, headaches, tiredness and joint/muscle aches
Spread by respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing, on hands) Spread by respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing, on hands)
Fever is rare Fever is common
Upper respiratory symptoms more common Whole body symptoms more common
Symptoms less severe Symptoms more severe
Symptoms come on gradually Symptoms come on quickly
Usually does not result in complications Can result in severe complications including pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections and hospitalisation

It is important to remember that colds and the flu are both caused by viruses and therefore will not respond to antibiotic treatment. 

Treatment of symptoms is very important and can include Paracetamol, anti inflammatories, fluids and plenty of REST.  Make sure you are reviewed by a doctor if your symptoms are severe, not improving with time or if you are worried in any way.

Lastly, the flu vaccine is the best available way to prevent the flu and is available from your GP.  If you are in a high risk category, it will be free.  Consult your GP to see if you qualify.

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