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Colds and Flu: Signs, Symptoms and Remedies

  • Cold and flu symptoms are often similar, but their effects are quite different.
  • Colds appear gradually, predominantly affecting your nose and throat, making you feel unwell.
  • Flu, on the other hand, appears within a few hours and can make you feel exhausted, affecting more than just your nose and throat.

Some of the symptoms for colds and flu, however, overlap with symptoms for the coronavirus, COVID-19. If your temperature is high, or if you have a continuous cough or loss of smell and taste, get tested and stay at home until you get your result.

Read more about coronavirus symptoms and what to do.

Signs and symptoms of colds and flu

Even though the symptoms for colds and flu are similar, there are a few specifics to look out for.


Flu symptoms tend to be more severe, some of which are:

  • Sudden fever (38 °C +)
  • Aching muscles
  • Headaches
  • A dry cough
  • A sore throat
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite


Symptoms for the common cold include:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Coughs and sneezing
  • A fever
  • Pressure in your face and/or ears
  • Loss of appetite

What to do if you catch a cold or flu

Cold and flu are caused by viruses and spread to other people easily. You can help avoid spreading a cold or the flu virus just by practising good hygiene, such as:

  • washing your hands often with warm water and soap
  • using tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • throwing away used tissues into a bin as quickly as possible

Tips to help avoid catching a cold or flu:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap
  • Avoid sharing towels, cups or dessert with someone who has a cold
  • Try not to touch your eyes or nose when you’re out and about
  • Try to stay as fit and healthy as you can be
  • Get the flu vaccine to help prevent the flu

If you’re experiencing symptoms, there are self-help measures you can take, as well as over the counter remedies. If your symptoms worsen, speak to your GP. When it comes to colds and flu, health care professionals recommend you steer clear of antibiotics, as they do not relieve symptoms, nor speed up recovery. They are only effective against bacterial infections.

Causes of colds and flu

You can catch the flu all year round, but it’s more common during winter. Spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, infecting people who are exposed.

How to treat colds and flu

You can help treat a cold effectively at home, but if symptoms persist – or if your flu symptoms seem to be more severe by the day – you should contact your doctor.

Here's how you can treat colds and flu yourself:

  • Keep warm
  • Get rest and sleep
  • Take ibuprofen or paracetamol to help lower your temperature and to treat any pains and/or aches
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Gargle with salt water to treat a sore throat

To help protect against flu, get the flu vaccine from your GP before the start of the flu season to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

Why Ibuprofen can help

Ibuprofen relieves aches, pain, fever and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Why Nurofen Cold and Flu Relief 200mg/5mg can help you

Nurofen Cold and Flu Relief 200mg/5mg tablets tablets have a dual action formula that works with your body to relieve aches and pains, and help to clear nasal congestion. It contains ibuprofen which provides up to 8 hours of pain relief.

If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health matters for further information or medical advice, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.