Flu or Cold? Spot the difference

Fiona Heavey


Fiona Heavey

Flu or Cold? Spot the difference

 Dr Cillian De Gascun

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 activityDr 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 two 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. "


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

  • Get the Flu Vaccine 
  • Follow a healthy diet 
  • Get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night ]
  • Build exercise into your daily routine 
  • Quit smoking 
  • Wash your Hands 
  • Carry tissues -
  • Control Stress 
  • Know the difference between cold & flu 
  • Act quickly