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Is it flu, or just a cold?

20 June 2019 Blog
Respiratory Emergency
Both will make you feel pretty terrible, but there are differences between a common cold and its more dangerous cousin, influenza.

Winter of 2019 has been a bad one for flu cases and there’s been plenty of media around the most severe cases resulting in hospitalisation and even death from flu-related conditions.

So how do you know if you have a cold or the flu?

If or when you should be concerned about that runny nose, aching bones or wheezing cough? Infection Control Manager Gerald Chan gives his tips:

"While both are respiratory illnesses, a cold will usually be milder than influenza as they are caused by different viruses," he says.

"Your GP will be the best person to diagnose which you have, but there are symptomatic differences we can be aware of."

The flu 

"A flu will come on quickly and is usually accompanied by fever, chills, body aches and fatigue. Chest congestion will likely be present and most sufferers will have a headache to top off their misery," Gerald says.

A cold

"A common cold is more related with sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat and generally comes on more gradually, although these symptoms may be present in a flu too," Gerald says.

If you are becoming concerned about severe Influenza Nurse Manager Gail Chambers says the emergency department at St John of God Murdoch Hospital is available

"The symptoms we look for in influenza is the sudden onset of fever over 38 degrees or a history of fever and a cough or sore throat," Gail says.

"Admission into hospital depends on an assessment, clinical findings, diagnostic tests, age, and other co morbidities.

"Our caregivers at the emergency department are on hand 24 hours should you be concerned about your wellbeing or that of those in your care."

How to protect against the cold and flu 

You’ve heard it before, but the best and simplest way to protect yourself is with an annual flu vaccination, coughing and sneezing into a tissue which is then disposed of and of course, great hand hygiene.