Woman with cold or flu coughing and blowing her nose with a tissue under autumn rain. Brunette female sneezing and wearing warm clothes.

Waking up with a sore throat and runny nose is never a good sign. But do you always know if you are fighting off the common cold or the flu? Read on and find out what the differences are.

Woman with cold or flu coughing and blowing her nose with a tissue under autumn rain. Brunette female sneezing and wearing warm clothes.

Common Cold Symptoms

The common cold is a much milder infection than the flu. Symptoms of a cold develop gradually, with the main symptoms being a sore throat that lasts roughly for the first two days, followed by a runny nose and finally a cough. It’s also worth noting that while children are likely to have a heightened temperature when they catch a cold, adults don’t generally get feverish or have a very mild one.

A cold normally lingers for around five to seven day. Usually you will be contagious from a few days before you get the symptoms of a cold until all of your symptoms have gone, so make sure that if you do go out that you're taking necessary measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

If you notice that your health hasn’t improved after 2 or 3 weeks, you may be facing a secondary infection caused by bacteria.

Alternatively, it may be the case that you have developed an allergy or hayfever which has similar symptoms to the common cold. Speak to your Superdrug Pharmacist who will be able to advise on your symptoms as well as the most appropriate medication.

Flu Symptoms

Flu has similar symptoms to the common cold, but often they develop more rapidly and can sometimes progress into more serious illnesses if left untreated.

The following symptoms are likely to signal that you are suffering from the flu: fever, extreme tiredness, sore throat, muscle soreness, bone aches, coughs and congestion.

While you are likely to feel exhausted for a week or more, flu symptoms typically ease within two to five days. The elderly, pregnant women and children are likely to be more vulnerable to the flu and may suffer from stronger symptoms.

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Cold vs Flu

The symptom

Cold

Flu

Fever

Not always, most likely mild Common at around 37-8 C, typically in children
Runny Nose Common

Not usually, occurs sometimes

Sneezing

Very common Not usually, occurs sometimes

Sore Throat

Common

Often, but doesn’t always occur

Cough Short, dry frequent cough

Very common, symptoms can include chest discomfort

Headache

Sometimes Very common
Extreme Tiredness Uncommon

Common - occurs at the start of the illness

Muscle Soreness & Aches

Possible but not common Common, often very painful

Can I Prevent the Common Cold and the Flu?

One of the most effective ways to stop yourself from getting a cold or flu is be mindful about keeping your hands clean.

You can do this by washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds – this helps to minimise the number of bacteria on your skin. This is important because the cold and the flu get into our bodies through our mouth, nose or eyes. This means that we can catch the cold or flu by touching an infected surface and then touching our face.

A great way to help prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine annually which is available from most Superdrug Pharmacies and Nurses Clinics.

If you have caught either the cold or the flu, over-the-counter medications will help ease the symptoms, however you should always speak to your pharmacist if you are unsure or need more information about what medicine you should take and remember to always read the label.

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