Confused about cold and flu?

coldfluUnderstanding the difference between cold and flu can be a bit confusing. Part of the confusion is because colds and flu can share similar symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat and headache, but each is caused by different viruses. 

The influenza virus causes the flu, which is relatively easy to prevent with a flu vaccination, as only a few variants of the virus exist.  On the other hand there are many viruses that can cause colds. Symptoms with flu develop very quickly, where as a cold usually develops over a couple of days.

Dr Richard Mendelsohn, Chief Medical Officer for the NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said, “A lot of people think they have flu when actually they have a heavy cold.  If the majority of symptoms are above the neck – for instance, a runny nose, cough, watery eyes, sore throat, congestion, and sneezing, then it is highly likely that you have a cold. 

“The best way to treat a cold is to make sure you get plenty of rest and take your usual painkillers or medicines, if you need them (always read the label).”

“While colds can leave you feeling exhausted and unwell, they are rarely medically serious and usually run their course in a few days.  On the other hand, flu tends to affect your lungs to a greater extent and can be very serious, taking weeks to recover, especially for those who have an existing medical condition.

“This is why a free flu vaccination is strongly recommended for people over 65, pregnant women and people who have existing medical conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease). Ask your GP or pharmacist for more information.”

Adults over who are otherwise healthy can also get a flu jab from their local pharmacy for a small charge. For more information about flu and vaccination, please visit:

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