Colds and Flu share similar symptoms but are caused by different viruses. Some people often mistake the flu as being a 'heavy cold'. However having the flu can be much more serious. Both can usually be managed at home, without the need to see a GP, especially if you are generally fit and well.
Symptoms of colds and flu can be similar. However colds often mainly affect the nasal passages, whereas with the flu, body aches, fever and malaise are often more predominant and more severe.
The following are typical symptoms of both colds and the flu:
The onset of symptoms of a cold tends to be gradual over a 1-2 days and tend to improve after a few days, although in some cases can last up to 2 weeks.
The onset of symptoms of a flu is much more sudden and should resolve within in a week, however the fatigue may last a lot longer.
Both colds and flu are caused by viruses. A cold can be caused by over 200 viruses, which commonly include rhinoviruses (>50% of colds), adenoviruses, coronaviruses, etc. Whilst the flu is caused by either of the influenza virus types A, B or C.
Colds and flu are self-limiting conditions - this means they resolve on their own with the help of your body's own immune system, without the need for antibiotics.
The flu, however, can cause serious complications such as pneumonia (chest infection), especially if you fall into one of the 'at risk' groups as listed below:
Everyone (both children and adults) who belongs to any of the 'at risk' groups is eligible for a free annual flu vaccination through their GP or local pharmacist. The annual flu vaccine nasal spray is available for healthy children between 2-3 yrs old, children in reception, and children in school years 1-4.
General prevention measures
Good hand hygiene is important in preventing the spread of colds and flu as both can be spread by breathing in air droplets that have been sneezed or coughed out by an infected person, or by coming into direct contact with an infected object or surface and then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose.
By simply coughing or sneezing into a tissue, throwing it away, washing your hands with soap and water, and having the flu jab if you are at risk, helps to prevent the spread of colds and flu.