According to the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, flu and the common cold are the two infections most regularly experienced by human beings.
With this in mind, it can be a little confusing when trying to figure out which illness you have if you’re under the weather.
What's the difference between the common cold and flu?
The two viruses share some symptoms, although there are clear ways to figure out whether you have one or the other.
You might have heard that flu is just a 'bad cold', but it's not as simple as this. Flu tends to come on more quickly than a cold. Common symptoms you won't experience with ‘just a cold’, are:
- feeling exhausted
- sudden fever
Fever is one of the clearest signs you have flu, with this symptom lasting between two and seven days. On the other hand, if you have a cold you are more likely to struggle with nasal problems, like a blocked nose and sore throat.
Both illnesses are contagious, so do be careful not to pass your condition onto other people. Follow our guide on how to stop flu spreading for more information.
Is flu more serious than a bad cold?
The government says you can normally manage the symptoms of cold or flu on your own without the help of a GP. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take painkillers to help relieve aches and pains.
That said, you’re more at risk of complications like bronchitis or pneumonia if you have flu. Because of this, anyone aged over 65, pregnant women and people with some illnesses are offered a vaccination against the illness every year.
How are flu and colds similar?
Both the common cold and flu are viral infections, so can't be treated using antibiotics. They just don’t work. The reason why so many people confuse the two conditions is because of the common symptoms they share.
Having a runny nose and sneezing a lot are two of the symptoms you could have with either illness, although it’s more likely you have a cold if that’s all you have.
The government's medical experts recommend you should get medical help if you have a chronic condition like asthma or diabetes, and you’re getting a high fever and severe head, chest or abdominal pains with ‘a cold’.