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Cold or flu? (infographic)

6-minute read

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Can't tell if you've got the cold or the flu? This infographic helps you compare cold and flu symptoms, debunk the most common myths.

Cold or flu? - infographic

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Is it the cold or flu?

Colds are very common and can be caused by one of 200 viruses. There is no vaccine for colds.

The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that is more severe than the common cold. A vaccine is available for the flu.

Understand the symptoms


Colds: Rare

Flu: Common


Colds: Common

Flu: Common

Sore throat

Colds: Common

Flu: Sometimes


Colds: Sometimes

Flu: Common

Loss of taste and/or smell

Colds: Sometimes

Flu: Sometimes

Body aches/pain

Colds: No

Flu: Common


Colds: Common

Flu: Common

Stuffy/runny nose

Colds: Common

Flu: Sometimes


Colds: No

Flu: Sometimes (in children)


Colds: Common

Flu: No


Colds: Rare

Flu: Common in children / Rare in adults

Cold and flu treatments

  • Lots of rest
  • Avoid cigarette smoke
  • Plenty of water
  • Keep warm
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Steam inhalation
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen for fever, aches and pains
  • Saline nasal sprays or decongestants for a blocked or runny nose
  • Throat lozenges for a sore throat
  • Do not use cough medicines for children younger than 6 years old

Colds and flu myths debunked

Myth: The flu is not a serious illness

Fact: The flu is highly contagious and potentially life-threatening

Myth: Colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics

Fact: Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viral infections

Myth: Vitamin C supplements can prevent colds and flu

Fact: There is no evidence to support vitamin C supplements preventing colds or flu

Myth: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated

Fact: Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated every year

Myth: You can catch colds and flu from cold weather or getting caught in the rain

Fact: Colds and flu are caused by viruses, not by wet climates or being exposed to cold air

Myth: Having the flu vaccine during pregnancy will harm the baby

Fact: The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy

Groups at high risk of catching the flu

  • Elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • People with existing medical conditions

Flu vaccination

  • Annual vaccination is your best protection against the flu and any associated illness
  • The flu vaccine is FREE under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule for people at high risk
  • Visit your doctor, pharmacist or other vaccination provider

Experiencing symptoms?

Use healthdirect's Symptom Checker to get advice on what to do next

More information

Learn more about the different types of colds and flu viruses and the medicines that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

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