What are colds and flu?
A cold is a milder illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite poorly for a few days to weeks.
What are the symptoms?
Cold symptoms come on gradually and can include:
- a blocked or runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell
Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. With the flu it is more common to have a high temperature as well as body and muscle aches.
How long could it last?
Cold symptoms usually last for about a week. Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. If symptoms last longer than they normally would, or you are worried about a young child or elderly relative, speak to your local pharmacist for advice.
When should I visit my GP practice?
You can usually treat a cold without seeing a healthcare professional. If you have flu and you notice shortness of breath, or a high temperature suddenly returns after a few days, contact your GP practice.
More information can be found here:
Do I need antibiotics?
In general, doctors do not recommend antibiotics for colds or flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. If cold symptoms don’t seem to be improving after 3 weeks see your GP.
What treatment do I need?
To help you get better more quickly:
- rest and sleep
- drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is OK) to avoid dehydration
- keep warm
- gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat (not suitable for children)
- take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
- relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets
You can buy cough and cold medicines from pharmacies or supermarkets. A pharmacist can advise you on the best medicine to use.
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It’s offered every year by the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
If you are ever worried that your symptoms might be something more severe then you can visit 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111.