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Colds and flu

9-minute read

People often talk about colds and flu (influenza) together, but it's important to realise colds and flu are different illnesses caused by different viruses. Find out more about how to treat each one here, how to avoid catching the cold or the flu, and special information on being ill during pregnancy and looking babies and children with a cold or flu.

Get a flu shot

It is important to get the flu vaccination each year to continue to be protected, since it wears off after 3 to 4 months.

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.

cold and flu


Adults can experience the common cold between 2 and 4 times a year, and kids can get up to 10 colds a year. Here's how to prevent and treat colds.



Learn all about influenza — a viral infection affecting the nose, throat and sometimes lungs — including its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Flu vaccine 2021

Should I get the flu vaccine in 2021?

Thankfully, the number of influenza cases was very low in Australia last year. Here's why it's still important to get protected against this killer virus.

Flu shot

More flu vaccine FAQs

Do you want to know more about the flu vaccine? Here are answers to some common questions, such as, 'I have an egg allergy; can I still have the flu shot?'

Cold or flu infographic

Is it a cold or the flu?

Can't tell if you have a cold or the flu? This infographic helps you compare cold and flu symptoms, and debunks some common myths.

10 tips to fight the flu

10 tips to fight the flu

There are many things you can do to help protect yourself from the flu. This infographic takes you through the top 10.

Child looking unwell with cold

Colds and flu in babies and children

Very young children may have had little or no previous contact with the viruses that cause colds and flu, so they may have low resistance to infection.

Fire danger

Colds and flu during pregnancy

If you are considering pregnancy or are already pregnant, it's highly recommended that you have a flu vaccination to help protect you and your baby.

Colds and flu medication

Colds and flu medication

There are many over-the-counter medicines that might relieve cold and flu symptoms, including paracetamol, ibuprofen and nasal decongestants.

Hand washing

Hand washing

Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illnesses such as the flu, common cold and coronavirus (COVID-19).

Man taking temperature.


A normal temperature is around 36-37°C; a fever is a temperature of 38°C or higher. Here's how to treat a high temperature, which is often a symptom of an infection.

Child with high temperature

Fever in children

Fevers are quite common in young children and are usually mild. Sometimes the causes of a fever will require urgent attention, but in most cases they can be managed at home.

School exclusion

School exclusion

If your child is sick they may need to stay home from school to prevent spreading their illness to others. Here's a list of school exclusion periods for the flu, gastro, chickenpox and more.

Flu trends

Flu trends in Australia

Healthdirect Australia collects data based on flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline. This information is used to calculate flu trends.

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

Last reviewed: April 2020

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