Don't let Colds and Flu Catch You Out This Year

Posted 15 August 2019

Upper and lower respiratory infections include conditions like the common cold, flu (influenza), sinus infections, and bronchitis. These infections affect most people several times in their life. Understanding what is happening in your body and how to respond is important.  Alliance Pharmacy in-house Pharmacist Sam Odgers spoke to us about managing different types of respiratory infections, to get you through these winter months

Upper Respiratory Infections 

Most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, and affect the nose, throat and upper airways. Viruses are spread through transmission of secretions from an infected person (eg droplets from sneezing, or close personal contact) which is why hand hygiene is important in reducing the spread of the virus. Infections with viruses that cause the ‘common cold’ usually result in symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough and sometimes an earache or headache. These symptoms generally ease in around a week or so, depending on your immune system. The cough however can persist for an extra few weeks after the other symptoms leave.

The typical progression of the common cold:

Day 1:  Sore or rough throat, fatigue and headaches

Day 2:  Sore throat worsens, possible low fever, runny nose and sneezing

Day 3:  Nasal and sinus congestion worsens, the mucus may thicken and become more yellow or green.

Day 4:  Sore throat may improve but mild cough can begin.  

Day 5 – 7: Congestion and energy levels improve.

Days 7 – 10+: All symptoms from a common cold infection generally resolve within a 10 day period, though a dry cough may persist for several more days or weeks.

The above is just a general guide, and everyone’s immune system is different. If your symptoms are worse than described or if you have additional symptoms it is advised that you see your doctor.






Beyond the common cold 

The common cold will usually resolve itself; however secondary complications can occur. Be careful as the cold or flu can cause a flare up in asthma or chronic bronchitis (chest infections) in some people. Sinusitis (sinus infection) can also occur, and therefore if your symptoms don’t line up with regular common cold symptoms it’s important to see a doctor.

Infections with the flu (an influenza virus) are typically more severe than the common cold. The flu usually starts with a sudden onset of fever and/or chills, and then can cause generalized aches and painsweakness and fatigue in addition to the same symptoms as the common cold. Full recovery often takes 1 to 2 weeks. Symptoms can be treated similarly to a cold, however some patients, like the elderly, young children, and those with other health conditions, should see their doctor to reduce the risk of secondary complications.    

Key treatments for symptoms 

  • Rest

  • Hydration (plenty of water, or  balanced electrolyte formulas)

  • Medicines for fever and pain relief eg paracetamol, ibuprofen

  • Decongestants (to reduce mucus) available in either tablets or nasal sprays

  • Lozenges (to assist with a sore throat)

  • In some high risk cases; anti-viral prescription medication.

Stay clear

Cold and flu viruses are easily spread between people, even before symptom appear!

Two of the most effective ways to avoid catching or spreading upper respiratory infections are performing appropriate hand hygiene (washing your hands frequently with soapy water or antibacterial wash) and covering your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze.

Another way to reduce the spread of infection is to stay home from work! This also allows for rest and a quicker recovery. Your local pharmacy may be able to provide you with a Leave Certificate to verify your need for time off.