This is the time of year when a lot of people come to the Pharmacy complaining of nasal congestion, headache and feeling unwell. Does the rainy season make people more vulnerable to the flu and common cold? Are the flu and common cold the same thing? Do you have a cold or do you have the flu? How do you know which is which?

In this post, we’ll discuss the basic differences between common cold and the flu, their causes, treatment and prevention in simple terms.

Common cold and flu: What are they?

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat).

Influenza (flu for short) is a viral infection that invades the whole respiratory system, including your lungs.


Both a common cold and the flu are caused by a virus. Common cold is caused by the rhinovirus and the flu is caused by the influenza virus. These viruses travel in tiny droplets by air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. We then easily pick it up by inhaling the droplets directly or touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the germs and introducing them to the mouth, nose or sometimes the eyes!

A common misconception is that the flu and cold are caused by cold temperatures. This is not completely true. During the cold and wet season, people spend more time indoors with the windows and doors closed. This makes them more likely to breathe the same air as someone who has the flu or a cold. Germs, such as the ones causing common colds, also tend to linger in lower temperatures and this makes it easier to contract them.


Symptoms for common cold include nasal congestion, runny nose, scratchy throat and sneezing while the symptoms for a flu infection include cough, fever, body or muscle aches, headache, sore throat, fatigue and in severe cases diarrhea and vomiting (especially in children).


Both infections are usually self-limiting and most people recover without having to take medications. However, to relieve the symptoms of pain associated with flu, analgesics can be taken with lots of rest and hydration. In severe cases of the flu which may compromise the safety of the patient (for example, immuno-compromised patients or patients with asthma), antivirals can be taken to speed up the healing process.

Certain flu medications containing analgesics and nasal decongestants are also available at the Pharmacy. Make sure you discuss with your Doctor or Pharmacist before buying.

Antibiotics do not treat or cure common colds or the flu, because antibiotics target bacteria, not viruses.


The best way to prevent the flu and common cold is to keep your immune system strong:

• Make sure to get the flu vaccine every year. This is especially important for people with weaker immune systems, such as elderly people.

• Keep up good health habits like washing your hands frequently and covering the mouth while coughing. This helps to limit the spread of germs.

• Eat fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.

• Take healthy supplements that boost the immune system, such as Effer C. Make sure that the supplements you take contain vitamin C and other essential vitamins.

If you think you’ve got the flu or a cold, you can talk to your Doctor or Pharmacist.

Disclaimer: This article is strictly for educational purposes and is not in any way intended for use in diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Always see your Doctor when you need medical attention or your Pharmacist when you need professional counsel on drugs and drug-related matters.

For professional advice on drugs and drug-related matters:  Visit the closest Alpha Pharmacy to you or call +2349062547022.