Cold and Flu: What’s the Difference?


The sniffles have hit, you’re a bit wheezy and feeling rubbish, and you’re wondering to yourself ‘have I got a cold or flu?’ Whilst cold and flu symptoms do have a lot of crossover, the conditions are two separate beasts and there are a number of ways you can tell just how bad your sniffles actually are. So, what is the difference between a cold and the flu? Read on, because you’re about to discover the subtle differences between the two. 

Just remember, as much as we’re experts at dealing with sniffly noses, we’re not medical professionals. Make sure you see your GP if you feel like your cold and flu symptoms are getting worse.    

Cold symptoms vs flu symptoms

Although cold and flu symptoms are quite similar in their presentation, the rate and power at which these symptoms hit are more severe with flu. There are a number of common symptoms that can help you tell the difference between cold and flu bouts:

  • Nasal symptoms such as sneezing and a sore throat are more common with colds
  • Muscular aches and pains are more common with flu
  • Chills and fever are more common with flu
  • Fatigue and weakness are more common with flu

If you would like more in-depth information about the difference between cold and flu symptoms, visit the NHS website. 

Onset and duration of colds vs flu

The time it takes for symptoms to show, become more severe and then hang around are good indicators of the difference between cold and flu too. Symptoms of flu tend to become more acute more quickly than colds. However, the common cold does tend to linger for longer – not forever though, even if it feels like that sometimes. Whilst flu will make you feel worse than a cold, the worst of the symptoms should be done with within a week, whereas the common cold’s sniffs and sneezes can hang around for two weeks or more.

Treatment of cold and flu symptoms

You’ve asked yourself the question ‘have I got a cold or flu?’ and you’ve decided which of the two it is, so now you probably want to move on to getting rid of the pesky thing. Whereas a cold usually requires nothing more than a couple of packets of tissues that are strong enough for nose explosions and soft enough to care for your delicate nose, like Cushelle, plus plenty of rest and water, flu symptoms may need extra treatment. 

The NHS website provides lots of advice on suitable medications for treating flu at home, but if you’re still not sure, make sure you book a doctor’s appointment. Whatever you decide, staying rested and hydrated is key. 

For blocked, sore noses, try using soft Cushelle tissues. The gentle tissues help to soothe dry skin, no matter how many times you need to blow your nose.

In addition to treatment, the need to contact your doctor if you have flu is more important for:

  • Over 65 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients with a long-term medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • People with a weakened immune system
  • Anyone who has a high fever combined with severe chest or abdominal pain and headaches


Stopping the spread of cold and flu symptoms can be achieved by getting everyone in the home involved, whether they’ve been struck down or not. Once you’ve all got into the habit of these regular cleaning practices it’ll help keep the nasties away and stop germs spreading:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Immediately dispose of tissues
  • Avoid sharing towels and bedding with infected people
  • Wipe down high-usage items such as door handles and remote controls

Now that you know the difference between cold and flu symptoms, and how to treat and prevent them, you’ll know just what to do the next time you feel one coming on. Whichever you catch, caring for each other is key. A speedy recovery is much more likely when you share the responsibilities as a family.

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