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Cold vs Flu: What’s the difference?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Telling the difference between having a cold and flu can be difficult for many people, this is because both illnesses share many of the same symptoms despite being caused by different viruses. 

Did you know on average, adults get 2 to 3 colds per year whilst people tend to only get the flu once every 5 years?

It’s no wonder most people think their flu is just a common cold to begin with!


Whilst there are a lot of similarities between cold and flu symptoms, there are some clear distinctions between the two, especially when checking temperature, type of cough, mucus and if the stomach has been affected.

Taking a look at both sets of symptoms will give you a better understanding of the differences between the two illnesses!



  • Temperature of 38C or above
  • Aches
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick
  • Vomiting


Unfortunately it’s not enough to keep distance from someone with a cold, as you can become infectious before symptoms start. The best way to avoid catching a cold is to:

  • Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap
  • Don’t share towels
  • Don’t drink from the same cup as anyone unwell
  • Don’t touch your eyes or nose
  • Stay fit and healthy

Getting your flu vaccination is by far the most effective method of prevention against the flu.

Home Remedies

Unfortunately when it comes to getting better, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure for either illness. But it’s not all bad news, you can still help yourself get better faster by:

  • Drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration
  • Getting lots of rest and sleep
  • Staying warm


If you’re still feeling under the weather after trying to speed up your recovery, then there are a variety of cold and flu medications available over-the-counter from your local pharmacy. 

And if you’re not feeling up to leaving the house…

Simply download the Healthera app or use our website to order directly to your door from a local pharmacy.

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