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Cold Flu or COVID?

The weather is wet, windy and chillier than we are used to, a sure sign that winter is on it’s way which also means that it’s flu jab time for those who are vulnerable.   However, we are all at risk from colds, flu (influenza) and, of course, COVID.  With so many symptoms being similar, how do we know the difference and what action do we need to take?

(The above image is taken from a painting by Paul de Ath – you can see more of his fabulous work on his Facebook page 

Cold Flu or Covid?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), flu and COVID are caused by different viruses and both are infectious respiratory diseases.

The trouble is that they both spread in similar ways and share similar symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache and fatigue, making it very difficult to diagnose.   Not everyone will feel the same.  Some may have no symptoms, others will experience mild ones and some may suffer from more severe manifestations such as breathlessness, muscle pain, chills and a (new) loss of taste or smell.  Both illnesses can cause pneumonia and both can be fatal.

Medical News Today highlights the symptoms of the common cold, flu and COVID-19 with a helpful table


It is possible to be infected with COVID and flu at the same time.  WHO explains that both diseases are spread by droplets and aerosols when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings or breathes.  People who are nearby can have droplets land in their eyes, nose or mouth and they can also be infected by touching contaminated surfaces then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth if they haven’t cleaned their hands.

Therefore, the same measures need to be taken to prevent infection.  These include wearing a well-fitted face mask, keeping your distance from others, avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated places, cleaning your hands frequently, and opening windows and doors to ensure rooms are well ventilated.

As outlined by WHO and many other health organisations, vaccines play an important role in our protection against both diseases but different vaccines are required.   Flu vaccines do not protect against COVID-19 and vice versa.

Feeling Unwell?

Older adults, people with chronic medical conditions such as cardiac, renal, metabolic, neurologic, liver or hematologic diseases, and those with immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV/AIDS, who are receiving chemotherapy or steroids, or malignancy are all at higher risk of severe illness.

The advice from WHO is that people should stay home if they don’t feel well and contact their doctor if they have any of the following severe symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • High temperature (above 38°C)
cold flu or covid


This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.  If in any doubt, consult your doctor or take a Covid test.


First published in the Nov/Dec 21 issue of The Local Buzz