Prepare to battle against cold and flu

When cold and flu season strikes, sore throats, runny noses, sinus headaches and cold and flu aches and pains can leave you feeling less than your best. Unfortunately, most of us will catch a cold at some time. That’s because it’sone of the most common illnesses, affecting adults 2-4 times a year and children as many as 5-10 times a year.

Cold and flu symptoms can make your work or school day feel miserable. While there’s no cure for the common cold, there are things you can do to help relieve your symptoms.

What’s behind cold and flu?

Sometimes it feels as though you catch one cold after another after another. That’s because there are around 200 different viruses that can cause colds. Rhinovirus is the most common, accounting for around 50-75% of common colds. The ‘flu’ (influenza) is caused by a completely different virus (influenza A or B). The viruses are spread via hand contact or the air, from coughs and sneezes.

Feeling stressed or not getting enough sleep can increase your chance of catching colds and flu, as can attending day-care centres or preschool. That’s why it feels like your kids are constantly bringing home germs! The good news is once you’ve fought off a cold due to a particular virus, you’re unlikely to catch it again.

The difference between cold and flu

Cold and flu are both viral infections affecting the nose, throat, sinuses, and airways, but they are not the same. While cold symptoms can leave you feeling unwell, flu symptoms are usually much more severe.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s likely you have caught a common cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose (congestion)
  • Sore throat
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

Flu can affect your whole body. Symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, but are often more severe and may also include:

  • High fevers, sweating and shivering
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting

Sometimes you can develop a more serious viral or bacterial infection from cold and flu (e.g. ear infection, bronchitis). If your symptoms worsen, or persist for more than 10 days, see your doctor.


How long do cold and flu symptoms last?

Cold and flu symptoms generally peak at 1-3 days and last 7-10 days, although sometimes they persist for 3 weeks.


Cold and flu remedies and relief: what works?

Cold and flu symptoms may leave you feeling unwell, but you don’t have to feel miserable. Here’s a list of cold and flu remedies that may help you:

  • Get plenty of rest and stay comfortably warm
  • Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic fluids
  • Eat regular, healthy meals
  • Inhale steam to help relieve a stuffy nose (children must be supervised)
  • Avoid cigarette smoke
  • Soothe a sore throat by gargling salt water; sucking on an ice cube or throat lozenge; or drinking hot water with honey and lemon

Cold and flu medicines that may help you include:

  • Pain relievers such as Nurofen and Nurofen Cold and Flu for relieving fever, sore throat and other aches and pains
  • Decongestants or a saline nasal spray for a blocked nose
  • Antihistamines can help relieve a runny nose, sneezing and a dry cough
  • Medicines that suppress a cough (known as cough suppressants) may be used to relieve a dry cough
  • Medicines that break down or loosen mucous (known as expectorants and mucolytics) may help a chesty cough

Some cold and flu medicines shouldn’t be given to young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with certain medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure). Always ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice first.

Six tips to help manage cold or flu

There are some simple things you can do to avoid catching a cold or spreading one to others:

  1. Stay at home if you’re unwell
  2. Wash your hands regularly, particularly before eating or after blowing your nose
  3. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  4. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth
  5. Avoid sharing drinking or eating utensils
  6. Clean household surfaces and children’s dummies and toys

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.

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  • National Prescribing Service (NPS). Available at:
  • Allan GM and Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ Canadian Medical Association Journal 2014;186(3):190-9.
  • Mayo Clinic. Available at:
  • Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA). Cold and Flu. Self Care Fact Sheet: Ear, Nose and Throat 0086 2010. Available at:

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.