Flu or cold? Spot the difference

Lifestyle Reporter

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Lifestyle Reporter

Clonmel hospital visitor ban remains as HSE issues advice on how to tackle the flu

Cold and flu season is upon us.

Ever wondered if it’s a cold or flu? Sometimes it’s difficult to determine, but Boots Ireland is here to help you spot the difference. Flu season has officially begun and to help further the nation’s understanding between the flu vs common cold, Boots Ireland is launching a new campaign to raise awareness and understanding between the two, alongside encouraging customers to avail of its in-store flu vaccination service.

Compared to the common cold the flu is a far more serious viral infection and results in a number of deaths and hospitalisations in Ireland each year. The main symptom difference between a cold and flu is that the symptoms of influenza come on rapidly and are accompanied by muscle aches and a high fever. Other symptoms of flu include: headache, extreme exhaustion, coupled with fatigue and weakness which can last up to 3 weeks.

A cold usually starts gradually with a sore throat and a blocked or a runny nose. Symptoms of a cold are generally mild compared to flu. There are over 200 forms of cold virus and most adults have 2 to 4 colds a year; children can get 6 to 10.

Speaking about this year’s influenza activity, Dr Cillian De Gascun, consultant virologist and laboratory director at the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory said: “At present, we are seeing very little influenza activity in Ireland, so it’s a good time to get the vaccine, as it takes about 2 weeks to take effect. Getting the flu vaccination is the best preventive measure we have against influenza, especially for people in the at-risk groups.”

Antibiotics do not work on either a cold or flu and taking an antibiotic when it’s not needed can cause some unnecessary side effects without providing any benefit. However, getting a flu vaccination reduces the risk of getting the flu by up to 60%. People over the age of 65 years, pregnant women and those with long term health conditions are in an “at risk group” and strongly recommended to get the flu vaccination at this time of year, as they have a greater chance of developing complications from flu.

Susan O’Dwyer, Pharmacist, Boots Ireland said: “There are lots of easy steps you can take to ensure you feel well this winter. One of the best is to ensure you are vaccinated against the flu virus. Vaccination is strongly recommended for those over 65, people with long-term health conditions, carers and pregnant women as it’s the best way to help prevent getting and spreading the flu.  At Boots we provide a vaccination service in all 84 of our pharmacies nationwide. With most of our pharmacies open late at night and seven days a week you are sure to find a convenient time to receive your vaccination. If you have any questions about winter wellness or Boots vaccination services, talk to one of our in-store pharmacists.”

Susan O’Dwyer’s top tips to stay well this winter:

- Get the Flu Vaccine – Boots provides a convenient and accessible flu vaccination service available in Boots pharmacies nationwide and at a time that suits you. Book your appointment in store or online at boots.ie/flu.
- Follow a healthy diet – Avoid processed foods and try to cook meals at home where possible.  Vitamins and supplements are not normally needed if you have a healthy diet but speak to your local Boots pharmacist for advice if concerned.
- Get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night – While sleep requirements vary from person to person, it’s important that you get the recommended amount to help ensure your immune system is working at its best.
- Build exercise into your daily routine – Having a regular exercise routine is extremely important for your overall health. Regular physical activity is the key to getting healthy and staying healthy.
- Quit smoking – If you are a smoker you are more at risk of suffering from respiratory infections during the winter months[vii]. Consider quitting smoking or cutting down on the amount you smoke. Ask in store about our Stop For Good smoking cessation service or book your appointment online at boots.ie
- Wash your Hands – Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap to eliminate the spread of germs.
- Carry tissues - If you have a cold you can avoid passing it on by sneezing into a tissue, binning the tissue immediately and washing your hands afterwards.
- Control Stress – Stress weakens the immune system, making it more likely to catch a cold. Make time for your mental health each day, factoring in time for mindfulness and relaxation.
- Know the difference between cold & flu – Your local pharmacist can advise on appropriate medications to relieve your symptoms.
- Act quickly - Visit your local Boots pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell, before it gets more serious.

Speak to your local Boots pharmacist for more information on the Boots Winter Flu Vaccination service or book your appointment in store or online at boots.ie/flu.