Ask Vivomed’s Pharmacist – Top 5 Differences Between The Cold & Flu

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Ask Vivomed‘s Pharmacist – Top 5 Differences Between The Cold & Flu

While January is often seen as a fresh start to a new year it is also a prevalent time for contracting the common cold & flu.

Ask The Pharmacist- Top 5 Differences Between The Cold & Flu
Ask The Pharmacist- Top 5 Differences Between The Cold & Flu

Recent figures from “Public Health England” suggest that the UK is experiencing its most widespread case of the flu since 2011. While the common cold and flu share some of the same general symptoms there are a few differences you should look out for in order to follow the best course of treatment.

The Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection of the nose & throat (upper respiratory tract). As it is a viral infection normally antibiotics will be ineffective at treating it. Whilst there are 100’s of different cold causing virus’, the most common is the Rhinovirus due to its contagious nature. Infection spreads through travelling airborne droplets from sneezing, coughing and even breathing. Colds are particularly common during the winter months.

The Flu (Influenza)

Similarly to the cold, the flu is an infection of the upper respiratory tract making them difficult to distinguish apart. Although whilst the cold can be picked up anytime throughout the year, the flu is seasonal & limited to the winter months. The flu is caused by one of three viruses; Influenza A, B or C. While there are only three virus types, the strain can change on an annual basis. The flu is transmitted in a similar way to the common cold.

Top 5 Differences

1. The cold does not present any fever symptoms in comparison to the flu. Flu suffers will have a high temperature which is typically present for 3-4 days (37.7-38.8°C). You can use a good quality thermometer to check.

2. Aches & pains (often severe) are more commonly present in the flu but can be treated with products containing; Paracetamol and  Ibuprofen.

3. A headache is rarely associated with the common cold but is often quite pronounced in cases of the flu.

4. The common cold typically lasts 7-10 days while the flu can last up to 2-3 weeks.

5. The flu is often contracted seasonally i.e winter months while the common cold can be picked up almost any time of the year.


· Maintain adequate hydration levels (clear urine is a good indication)
· Wash hands on a regular basis with soap or water or use a hand sanitiser foam or gel
· Always sneeze/cough into a tissue and bin.
· Stay at home if you have the flu to prevent transmission

Lemsip Cold & Flu Sachets
Lemsip Cold & Flu Sachets

· Vitamin C & Zinc Supplementation
· Vitamin D Supplementation
· Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray


· Paracetamol containing products (help alleviate temperature/aches & pains

· Ibuprofen (alleviate aches & pains
· Decongestants can help relieve congestion in the airways
· Cough bottles



Warning; Patients on blood pressure medication should AVOID using decongestants.

For more information on treatment of the cold or flu please contact your local Pharmacist or Doctor

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