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Cold and Flu - Viral Illness

Colds and flu share some of the same symptoms but are caused by different viruses.  The ‘flu'can be much more serious than a cold.

If you are usually fit and well you can manage the symptoms of cold and flu without seeing a doctor.

  • Make sure you are drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to ensure you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Make sure you rest and avoid strenuous exercise.
  • Over the counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help relieve aches and pains.
  • Antibiotics are NOT effective in treating colds and flu.

How do I know if I have a cold or the ‘flu?

Cold – Symptoms can last up to 2 weeks Flu – Symptoms can last up to a week but you may feel tired for longer 
Runny nose – with clear/green mucous Sudden fever of 38-40C (100-104F)
Blocked nose Muscle aches and pains
Sore throat Sweating
Coughing Needing to lie down, feeling exhausted
Sneezing Dry, chesty cough
Mild Fever  

People more at Risk

Some groups of people are more at risk of developing complications from cold and flu illnesses. These are:

  • people aged over 65
  • people aged under 65 including children with: 
    • serious heart or chest problems including asthma
    • kidney or liver disease
    • diabetes
    • low immunity due to a health condition or medication
    • a history of stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack)
    • pregnant women.

People in at risk groups will be offered a free flu vaccination every year, which is the best protection against getting the virus. These groups also include carers and relatives of those in at risk groups

To find out about the flu vaccine, contact your GP surgery, your practice nurse or local pharmacist.

Stop the spread of cold and flu

Viruses are spread via air droplets that are coughed or sneezed out by the affected person. Other people then breathe in these droplets or come into contact with them on their hands.

  • Ensure that you cough or sneeze into a tissue and dispose of the tissue as soon as possible after using it.
  • Washing your hands as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that surfaces including door handles are cleaned regularly and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly.
  • Make sure you have a flu vaccine annually if you or someone you care for is in a high risk group.

Comment from GP/Clinical Practice

Key Points

  • Cold and flu illnesses can usually be managed at home using over the counter medication and making sure you have plenty to drink.
  • Antibiotics are NOT effective in treating cold or flu – these illnesses are usually self resolving over 1-2 weeks.
  • If you are in a high risk group or care for someone who is, make sure you get your annual flu vaccine.
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