Every winter, with the change of the weather, we are at risk of upper respiratory system illnesses. The most common of these is the flu.

Flu is not a “bad cold”. It is caused by a virus. Each year, thousands of people die of complications after catching the flu.

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?

Cold or flu?

Cold and flu share some of the same symptoms.  Colds cause more nasal problems than flu and fever, fatigue and muscle aches are more likely and more severe.

Symptoms of colds and flu can include:

  • blocked or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • cough
  • sneezing
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell
  • a high temperature or fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • feeling exhausted and needing to lie down

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.

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?

The flu virus

A person infected with a particular flu virus develops antibodies against that virus. As antigenic changes accumulate, the antibodies created against the older viruses no longer recognize the “newer” virus, and the person can get sick again. Genetic changes that result in a virus with different antigenic properties is the main reason why people can get the flu more than one time. This is also why the flu vaccine composition must be reviewed each year, and updated as needed to keep up with evolving viruses.


Basic treatment of the illness is supporting and symptomatic therapy. Patients with flu should be supported by bed rest, warm fluids and for symptomatic treatment, anti-pyretic, analgesic agents and cough syrups.

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?


Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria, but the flu is caused by a virus. There is no evidence to support the benefits of taking antibiotics for viral infections like the flu.

Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good (except in the case of co-infection, the addition of a bacterial infection as well as a viral infection) as it increases your risk of getting an infection later that may resist antibiotic treatment.

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?

Stop the viruses spreading

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:

  • coughing or sneezing into a tissue
  • throwing a used tissue away as soon as possible
  • washing your hands often with warm water and soap
  • having a flu jab every year if you’re in an at-risk group

Prevention is better than cure

The Influenza virus is the cause of flu and it changes every year as mentioned above.  WHO (the World Health Organisation) announce the most common version of the flu virus annually and the flu vaccination changes accordingly.

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?

The vaccination protects you from the most dangerous type of flu and is recommended for people who are most at risk.

  • elderly people
  • people with serious heart or chest complaints, including asthma
  • people with serious kidney disease or liver disease
  • people with diabetes
  • those who have lowered immunity
  • cancer sufferers

Flu Pandemic of 1918

Dr Ali's medical advice - cold or flu?
Flu pandemic 1918

In 1918 flu infected 500 million people across the world and killed 50 to 100 million of them – three to five per cent of the world’s population, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

Nowadays with the improvement in science and medicine the fatality ratio is very low in comparison however there are still flu epidemics and pandemics every two to three years and it still kills some people. These deaths can be prevented by vaccination.

Doctors and hospitals

If you do need a doctor during your stay there are clinics in most areas which are mostly open 24 hours during the peak summer season

The local hospitals also provide emergency medical care