Cold and Flu

About the common cold and flu

A look at all that is symptomatic of a common cold and flu, the differences between the two and the role hygiene plays in protecting you and your family from an outbreak.


Both the flu and common cold are contracted by coming into contact with an infected person. The ways in which one can contract cold and flu include:

  • Being in the vicinity of an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes ejecting diseases causing viruses into the atmosphere
  • By coming into contact with a contaminated item, like tissues used by an infected person, door handles, hand rails and telephones, and then touching your nose or eyes that gives the viruses direct access to your bloodstream


What’s the difference between a common cold and flu?

While both may seem like the same thing, symptoms of common cold manifest in a much milder form than flu. Both are, however, similar in the sense that they are both viral in nature, not bacterial and as such cannot be treated with antibiotics. Also, common cold does not lead to life threatening complications which flu often results in.

The common cold at a glance

Common cold is a viral infection affecting the upper respiratory system, commonly caused by rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza virus, adenovirus and coronavirus. Symptomatic within 10-12 hours of exposure, common cold can be diagnosed if the patient exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore or irritated throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever (mostly in young children)

Flu at a glance

Flu viruses are of three kinds. Most cases of human flu can be attributed to Type A viruses which also induce some disease in animals. Type B is not as common and is responsible for causing illnesses that are not too severe. Type C viruses usually only cause mild flu and are rare. Symptoms of flu tend to be more serious than those of common cold and can include:

  • Sudden fever (usually 39°C or above)
  • Dry cough
  • Achy muscles
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children)

For how long is Flu contagious?

The flu virus tends to incubate for as long as 1-3 days after first contact. If you’re a infected, you can transmit the virus to another person the day before your symptoms show up and in rare cases, as early as up to five days before the symptoms begin exhibiting.

Most people make a full recovery from flu, but it can sometimes lead to complications including bronchitis, pneumonia and in rare cases meningitis.

Prevention Tips

How good hygiene can protect against cold and flu?

Good hygiene can prevent most diseases and stop the proliferation of cold and flu causing viruses in your environment. Some basic steps to maintain good hygiene are as follows:

  • Always cover your mouth with a tissue or your hands when coughing or sneezing
  • Dispose used tissues responsibly and always wash your hands with antibacterial soap after
  • If you don’t have access to soap and water, use Dettol Wipes or a hand sanitiser
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that come into a lot of human contact, especially door handles, handrails and taps,
  • Avoid contact with people that have contracted a cold or flu and avoid touching or using things they have come into contact with

When someone has a cold or flu

Stay home and keep away from others. Drink plenty of fluids such as water. If necessary, take ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the symptoms. Ensure high levels of hygiene.

Myths and Truths

“Will Having the flu jab while I’m pregnant will affect my baby?”

Not at all. If you contract flu while you’re pregnant, it could be extremely detrimental for your baby. On the other hand, getting the jab while you’re expecting ensures that your baby is protected against contraction of flu for the first couple of months after birth.

“Going out with wet hair or clothes will cause a cold?”

A commonly perpetuated myth but unless you’ve come into contact with someone who’s already suffering from the flu or common cold, you’re not likely to catch a cold just because your clothes are drenched. You might feel cold, yes, but you will definitely not catch one!