Understanding the Difference Between Colds and Flu

Discover the key differences between colds and flu from Alphega Pharmacy. Find out how to tell the symptoms apart & seek appropriate treatment.

So have I got a cold, or is it the flu?

Flu is the common name for influenza and is a more serious type of infection than a cold. Symptoms of a cold – sore throat, runny nose, a slight temperature - develop gradually and usually you’re able to carry on and do things. Flu, on the other hand, is a more severe illness for the majority of people and its symptoms are debilitating, preventing the sufferer from doing anything other than lie down and rest. The Flu will bring on a high temperature, aching limbs, weak muscles and the symptoms can last for up to 10 days.

bedridden

How do you catch flu?

The flu virus is contagious and passed on in air droplets that are breathed, coughed or sneezed by people. You can also contract flu by touching a surface that’s contaminated with the virus.

Can I be vaccinated to protect myself from catching flu?

Your local Alphega pharmacist will be able to vaccinate you against flu. Some people can receive a flu vaccine free of charge from the NHS, contact your Alphega Pharmacy to find out if you are eligible. Even if you are not eligible for a free vaccine, you may be able to pay privately to receive a vaccination. you can find out more about our flu vaccination service here

You can find your nearest Alphega Pharmacy offering the Flu Vaccination service by searching here. (Services may differ between pharmacies so get in touch with your local pharmacy to make an enquiry and book your appointment).

How do you avoid spreading or catching colds and flu?

Cold and flu are both caused by viruses and easily spread to other people.

With a cold you’re infectious from a few days before symptoms develop and until all signs of your cold have gone, which usually takes up to two weeks. Germs are spread from coughs and sneezes and can live on any hard surface for 24 hours. The good news is you can reduce the risk of spreading a cold by simply:

  • Washing your hands often with warm water and soap

  • Using tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze

  • Not sharing towels or household items (such as cutlery or cups)

  • Binning used tissues as quickly as possible

  • Trying to avoid touching your eyes or nose in case you have come into contact with the virus

  • Doing your best to stay fit and healthy

How to treat a cold

Unfortunately antibiotics won’t cure a cold, however, there are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that your local pharmacist will be happy to give advice on to help you make the right choice to relieve your cold symptoms. Get in touch with your local Alphega pharmacy for more advice.

Remember to:

  • Stay hydrated

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Consider using an inhalant or humidifier to help you breathe more easily. Your pharmacist will be able to give advice on the best choice

 

This guide will help if you’re keen to manage specific symptoms of your cold:

SymptomRelief
Sore throat
  • Suck on ice cubes, ice lollies or throat sweets
  • Gargle with salt water. Dissolve ¼-½ teaspoon of salt in 250ml of warm water (not recommended for children)
  • Sip on warm liquids, such as tea or broth
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever (speak to your local pharmacist if you would like more advice)
Nasal congestion and sinus pain and pressure
  • Try placing a warm compress over your nose and forehead
  • Breathe in steam from a hot shower
  • Try using a saline nasal spray
  • Take an over-the-counter OTC decongestant or pain reliever (speak to your local pharmacist if you would like more advice)
Cough
  • Use a cough syrup or medicine (some cough medicines shouldn’t be given to children under 12.  Ask your pharmacist which cough syrup would be best to relieve your symptoms)
  • Suck on a cough sweet
Ear ache or pain
  • Place a warm, moist flannel over the affected area
  • Try taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever (speak to your local pharmacist if you would like more advice)

Herbal Remedies

Why not try herbal remedies to help manage cold and flu symptoms

You don’t need to use medication to ease the symptoms of a cold.  You can also try herbal remedies and vitamins and supplements. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

Herbal Remedies

Summary

Understanding if you have a cold or the flu will help you to treat and relieve your symptoms as effectively as possible. Your local Alphega pharmacist can give you advice on the most appropriate options available to you. Find your local Alphega pharmacy by searching here. (Services may differ between pharmacies so get in touch with your local pharmacy to make an enquiry and book your appointment).