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What's the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

Is it a cold or flu, ask the makers of Day and Night Nurse

While colds and the flu are both respiratory illnesses, they’re caused by different viruses. And since they share so many of the same symptoms, it can often be difficult to determine which one you might be suffering from.

Understanding the difference between a common cold and the flu, however, means you’ll know the best way to treat your symptoms, be able to choose the right cold and flu treatment, and know when to call a doctor.

Flu symptoms often appear similar to those of a cold – though cold symptoms are typically milder and come on more gradually.

While colds can be a nuisance, the flu is more severe than a cold and will often include additional symptoms such as a high fever, muscle aches and exhaustion. In some cases flu can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Flu symptoms also typically come on more suddenly than those experienced with the common cold.

Still not sure if you’re stuck with a cold or the flu? Take our quick quiz below to learn how to tell the difference.

Cold or flu? Take the quiz to find out

Take our test to help determine whether you may have a cold or the flu:

  1. Did the symptoms start suddenly? Yes / No
  2. Do you have a high fever? Yes / No
  3. Do you have aches and pains? Yes / No
  4. Do you have chills? Yes / No
  5. Do you have fatigue or weakness? Yes / No
  6. Do you have a headache? Yes / No
  7. Do you have a blocked nose? Yes / No
  8. Do you have a severe sore throat? Yes / No
  9. Do you have a severe cough? Yes / No
  10. Do you have a runny nose? Yes / No

If Mainly Yes – You May Have the Flu

Based on your responses, it seems likely that you may have the flu.

The flu is highly contagious and symptoms can include a high fever, muscle aches, chills, a headache and fatigue. Symptoms tend to be more intense than cold symptoms. Untreated, flu symptoms may develop into more serious conditions like pneumonia or other severe respiratory tract infections. This risk is much higher in children, people with suppressed immune systems, older people or pregnant women. (The Nurses range is not indicated for children under the age of 16 or women that are pregnant or breastfeeding without medical advice.)

Over-the-counter products will help to relieve symptoms and you should begin to feel better within a week. Try Night Nurse for unbeatable strength* relief from flu. If your symptoms do not improve, seek advice from your doctor.

If Mainly No – You May Have a Cold

Based on your responses, it seems likely that you may have a cold.

Cold symptoms are typically less severe than flu symptoms and include a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, mild fever and a sore throat. A cold may disappear on its own and will not result in any further health complications. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the cold, however some common at-home treatments may help to ease symptoms. These include getting lots of rest, keeping warm, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking certain cold and flu relief over-the-counter medications. You should begin to feel better in about 7-10 days.

For an effective over-the-counter option, try Night Nurse Liquid for effective night-time relief. If your symptoms persist, seek advice from your doctor.

Cold vs Flu Chart

Symptoms Onset Gradual (develop over a few days) Sudden
Fever Rare Common High temperature (38°C)
Sneezing Common Occasionally
Stuffy or Blocked Nose Common Occasionally
Cough Common Mild to moderate intensity Productive cough – often produces mucus Common Can be severe Unproductive cough
Sore Throat Common Common
Body aches Uncommon Mild symptoms may be experienced Common Significant symptoms may be experienced
Chills Uncommon Common
Fatigue/Weakness Uncommon Mild symptoms may be experienced Common
Exhaustion Never Common
Nausea Uncommon Occasionally Vomiting and diarrhoea may be experienced (more common in children)
Is it a cold or flu, ask the makers of Day and Night Nurse