Health Leaders in Northamptonshire are issuing advice to help people recognise whether they have a cold or flu, help them understand and manage their symptoms and know how to access appropriate health services.

Colds and flu share some of the same symptoms (cough, sore throat), but are caused by different viruses. Flu can be much more serious than a cold. However if you’re generally fit and healthy, you can usually manage the symptoms of a cold or flu yourself without seeing a doctor. Look after yourself by resting, drinking non-alcoholic fluids to avoid dehydration and avoiding strenuous activity. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can relieve aches and pains.

Symptoms:

Colds

Symptoms of a cold include:

  • runny nose – beginning with clear mucus that develops into thicker, green mucus as the cold progresses
  • blocked nose
  • sore throat
  • sneezing
  • cough

People with a cold may also suffer with a mild fever, earache, tiredness and headache. Symptoms develop over one or two days and gradually get better after a few days. Some colds can last for up to two weeks.

Flu

Flu usually comes on much more quickly than a cold, and symptoms include:

  • sudden fever of 38-40C (100-104F)
  • muscle aches and pains
  • sweating
  • feeling exhausted and needing to lie down
  • a dry, chesty cough

A person with flu may also have a runny nose and be prone to sneezing, but these are not usually the defining symptoms of flu.

Help and support:

Whether it’s a cold or flu, if you feel you need advice on managing your symptoms, there are a numbers of ways to access help:

  • speak to your community pharmacist
  • call 111 for advice
  • make an appointment to see your GP

Try not to attend A&E with either illness, unless your GP, pharmacist or NHS 111 refers you, as there is nothing the healthcare professionals can do for colds and flu and you run the risk of spreading the virus to other patients, who may be more vulnerable.

Stop the viruses spreading:

Cold and flu viruses are spread by droplets that are coughed or sneezed out by an infected person. Other people can breathe in these droplets or transfer the droplets to their eyes or nose, via their fingers.

Protect yourself and others against colds and flu by:

  • coughing or sneezing into a tissue
  • throwing a used tissue away as soon as possible
  • washing your hands as soon as possible

Colds and flu viruses can also be passed on via infected droplets on objects or surfaces, such as door handles. You can help to prevent passing on or getting colds and flu by washing your hands regularly, and avoiding touching your eyes and nose.

For further information please visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx