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If you’re generally fit and healthy, you can usually manage the symptoms of a cold or flu yourself without seeing your GP.
Cold and flu symptoms are similar but flu tends to be more severe. Colds cause more nasal problems than flu. Fever, fatigue and muscle aches are more likely and more severe with flu.
Symptoms of colds and flu can include:
A cold develops gradually over one or two days and you’re most contagious during the early stages when you have a runny nose and sore throat. You should begin to feel better after a few days but some colds can last up to two weeks.
Flu usually comes on much more quickly than a cold, and symptoms appear one to three days after infection. You should begin to feel better within a week or so, but you may feel tired for much longer.
Whether it’s a cold or flu, get medical help if you either:
Everyone in an at-risk group is eligible for a free flu vaccination. Read more about how to manage symptoms of flu if you are in an at-risk group.
Cold and flu viruses are spread when you breathe in droplets that are coughed or sneezed out by an infected person. You can also catch a cold or flu by touching an infected object or surface and then touching your eyes and nose.
Protect yourself and others against colds and flu by: