I often hear people telling each other that they have the flu, but do they have a flu or just a bad cold? Either way, they would feel unwell. So, what it the difference?

Here is a little table:

Cold Flu or Influenza
Develops gradually

Viral infection of the upper respiratory tract

Caused by the Rhinovirus

Nasal congestion



Sore throat

Mild headache

Low grade fever (if at all)

General Malaise (feeling unwell)

Presents similar to a Cold

Caused by the Influenza Virus

Sudden onset


High fevers

Body aches

Occasionally Nausea & vomiting



Both are self-limiting, meaning if your immune system is working well, they generally go away by themselves. However, potential complications may include bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infections and asthma. While a cold can make us feel unwell, we can still function, albeit at less optimal capacity. In addition, taking over the counter medication cold and flu medication, help us feel well enough to pursue our jobs and other daily activities (and share our germs with others in the process). A flu, however, will often leave you bedridden for a few days, with body aches, lethargy, bad headaches and fevers.

As both are caused by a virus, anti-biotics are generally useless as they are designed to fight bacteria. However, if things get really bad anti-viral medication may be an option if your GP thinks they will be adequate.

There is lots we can do to ensure that our immune system is coping with the onslaught of the winter germs. That doesn’t mean that you are never getting a cold or flu, but it might mean that your body deals with it better.

  • Follow a mainly fresh food diet with a minimum of 2 serves or fruit and 7+ serves of vegetables.
  • Avoid processed food, sugar, too much alcohol and smoking.
  • Keep up your water intake. About 2.5 litres is great.
  • Enjoy regular exercise like walking in the fresh air for 30min 5 days a week.
  • Ensure to wash your hands regularly when touching possibly contaminated surfaces.
  • Avoid other who are sick (not so easy, but…)

If the cold or flu has gotten hold….

  • Stay at home and rest!
  • Keep your fluids up.
  • If you are sneezing or coughing – do so into your elbow rather than your hand.
  • Ask you grandparent or parents about some home remedies that are comforting and have helped them in the past. g. Chicken Soup
  • A tea/infusion made from Yarrow, Peppermint and Elderflower may help to encourage sweating and stimulate the immune system.
  • Fresh Ginger and Lemon can be added to enhance the effect.
  • There are many herbs and nutrients that have evidence to be helpful in fighting and possibly preventing the cold or flu.

Taking supplementations and herbs for the sake of it without the advice of someone with the right qualifications is not advisable. Some can do more harm than good if not taken the right way. Some can interact with medication and not every herb is right for everyone.

I hope this gave you a little insight. Don’t forget, a balanced nutritious diet is the corner stone of a great immune system.

If you need some advice send me a message here.

If you need some help book your acute appointment here.

Yours in health and happiness,


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