Colds and flu symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the colds and flu Symptom Checker if you're not sure what to do.
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.
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
Loss of taste and/or smell
Flu: Sometimes (in children)
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
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
People with exisiting medical conditions
- 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
Use healthdirect's Symptom Checker to get advice on what to do next
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Last reviewed: July 2022