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When you wake up in the morning with a blocked nose and a sore throat, have you caught a cold, or is it flu? The symptoms are very similar, but flu can be a lot more serious than a common cold; especially if you are elderly or you have a compromised immune system. So it’s important to understand the difference which is why we here at Broadgate Clinic London Wall have published this short article.

The viruses that cause the common cold and influenza

Let’s first take a look at the symptoms that are common to both the common cold and influenza. These include:

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness

As a generalisation, although these symptoms are common to both infections, they tend to be more severe if you have influenza.

Other symptoms that apply more specifically to flu

The symptoms that apply to influenza more specifically include:

  • Body shakes and chills
  • Aching pain in your joints and muscles
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Diarrhoea and/or vomiting

Even the more specific influenza symptoms listed above can be confused with the common cold, although not in such a severe way.

For instance some people may experience body aches and could confuse then with the severe joint and muscle pain that is often present with flu. Also, people with colds often feel fatigued through coughing and sneezing, but the more extreme fatigue people experience with flu often forces them to bed and lasts for a longer period of time.

Diarrhoea and vomiting tends to affect young people rather than adults and is associated with Swine flu.

Take the flu test

The only sure way of telling whether you have the common cold or influenza is to have a flue test. A doctor will perform the test simply by rubbing a cotton swab against the lining of your throat or nose. The results of the test are usually available in minutes.

Most young and middle aged people who are generally fit and healthy will fully recover from a cold or a bout of flu in days. Its only people aged over 65, those who have compromised immune systems or who suffer from asthma, diabetes, a heart condition, and pregnant women, who may need to take a flu test. If you are an “at risk” person, the doctor can prescribe anti-viral or antibiotic medication to shorten the infection and help to manage some of the symptoms.

Flu testing, from Broadgate Clinic London Wall

If you live and/or work in London you can make use of the private walk-in service we offer at Broadgate Clinic London Wall to take a flu test. Our opening hours are:

Monday to Thursday             08:00 to 18:30

Friday                                      08:00 to 17:30

Should you wish to phone ahead to make a same-day (or later) appointment, the number to call is 020 7638 4330.