Have I got the flu or the cold?

From November to February each year pharmacists all over Ireland are asked this prominent question:

“Have I got the flu or the cold”?

The Christmas season may be a great time for family, but for many there is extra work, extra stress caused by traffic, busyness, not having enough time, going out too much and putting too much stress on the body and mind – All this chaos can be a perfect incubator for catching the flu or cold!

The Drinagh Pharmacy team decided to write a short blog to help you identify between these 2 viruses. We hope the below health blog will assist you with assessing your symptoms against the flu and cold symptoms illustrated below and see the list of online treatments Drinagh Pharmacy have available to help you get back on track with your health. We deliver throughout Ireland and if you order before 3pm your delivery will be the next day (excluding weekends and public holidays).

We do always urge our readers to ask our pharmacists advice first instead of self assessing before you purchase any online medicines.

What is the difference between the flu and cold virus?

The Flu virus and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses.

In general the flu is much worse than the common cold, as the symptoms have a higher degree of intensity and can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and sometimes death. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose[i], cough and mild discomfort. In most cases people generally get the common cold during the winter season.

To further examine the difference between the flu and common cold and to help you assess which virus you may have if you’re feeling a bit ‘fluey or achy’ see the below illustrations from Cold and Flu.ie

The difference between cold and flu

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of flu include:

Cough - A cough can also be a symptom of a cold or the flu. Individuals may also suffer from a mucous, chest, dry or tickly cough

Cough: A cough can also be a symptom of a cold or the flu. Individuals may also suffer from a mucous, chest, dry or tickly cough.

Treatments – Drinagh Pharmacy have a selection of treatments available online for different types of coughs and can be viewed ‘HERE’. However, we would urge you to speak with our online pharmacist first before purchasing if you are unsure which type of cough syrup to take. You can send us a question HERE.

Runny nose is a symptom of cough

Blocked nose: A blocked nose is caused when the membranes lining the nose become swollen as a result of inflamed blood vessels.

Treatments – Blocked noses are very common, even if you don’t have the flu or cold. We have a variety of treatments online from Strepsils, to antihistamines like Zertek, Sudafed Nasal Spray , Lemsip and much more! You can search more HERE.

Headaches - It is common to have headaches when someone comes down with the flu, largely because of a high temperature and dehydration.

Headaches: It is common to have headaches when someone comes down with the flu, largely because of a high temperature and dehydration.

Treatments – Drinagh Pharmacy offer a range of pain killers to treat pain such as headaches. Click HERE to see more.

Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection - you may also have swollen glands in your neck, discomfort when swallowing and tonsillitis.

Sore throat: These are usually caused by bacterial or viral infections and can be among the first signs of coming down with a cold or flu.

Treatments – For a sore throat Strepsils are the most effective solution or similar products. You may require different strengths according to the severity of the pain. Please contact our pharmacists if you’re not sure – see our full range of lozenges HERE.

Glandular fever – You may also feel very tired and have a fever and swollen glands in your neck.

Fever: A fever is a common symptom of the flu and if the body temperature is above 100.4 F (38C) individuals are advised to take steps to bring it down.

We strongly advise to see your GP if you have a fever. We have a range of online medicines for children’s and adults flu symptoms to bring down a fever HERE.

General aches and pains are a symptom of cough

Bodily aches and pains: One of the sure signs that someone is suffering from the flu rather than a cold is the general onset of aches and pains.

Treatments – generally a pain killer will assist with body aches and pains. To see a list of online medications for this click HERE.

Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, particularly in the young, elderly, or people with lung or heart problems. If you notice shortness of breath, referral should be made to the doctor. Another common sign of pneumonia is fever that comes back after having been gone for a day or two.

How does the flu or cold spread?

The flu virus and common cold are airborne which means it spreads easily. It is actually airborne respiratory droplets (coughs and sneezes) that just enter our environment naturally and easily surviving without a host for about 24 hours. It is incredibly contagious and can be caught through simple day to day activities such as:

1. coughs or sneezes

2. By skin-to-skin contact (handshakes or hugs).

3. By saliva (kissing or shared drinks).

4. By touching a contaminated surface (blanket, door knob, table surface, bathrooms etc)

What can you do to prevent catching the flu or cold?

The American Cosmopolitan provide a good list of ways to prevent getting the flu or cold, we have listed the top 5 below:


When you get a flu vaccination, your body releases antibodies that can protect you from the most common virus strains in any given season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Drinagh Pharmacy Skibbereen offer the flu shot and you can book in by making contact ‘HERE’ Or phoning: +353 28 23333


The flu virus is a parasite that hangs around in respiratory secretions that travel through the air in small droplets; when projected by a cough or sneeze, they can fly about three feet before gravity takes over. If you are coughing and sneezing – please cover your mouth and nose. A small child or senior citizen might be close enough to catch the virus!


Simply touching a contaminated surface won't give you the flu, since the virus doesn't infect the skin — it has to make it to a mucosal membrane in your mouth or nose to cause an infection. However, how many of you reading this touch a surface and moments later may touch your face, either moving hair, pausing to think or something else. It really is incredibly easy to do, so be aware of your mannerisms throughout the winter season – small changes in behaviour may just stop you from getting sick.


The flu virus can remain viable without a host for about 24 hours, according to Dr. Adalja. "In general, all household surfaces are going to be contaminated with the flu virus if you're living with someone who has the flu," he says, adding that about 25 percent of people who become infected experience no symptoms but can still be contagious.


Touch a light switch? Communal keyboard? Water cooler? Whether you're in a public place or in your home, it's smart to wash your hands after handling any commonly-touched surfaces using soap and water afterward. Or even easier purchase some hand sanitizer and take it around with you. Every pharmacy will stock hand sanitation in small portable bottles.

To read more about the prevention of catching the flu virus or cold go to The Cosmopolitan. Health blog. There is of course much more you can do to avoid getting the flu this winter season.

If you have any questions at all – Send us a message at this ‘LINK’.

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