Always thought a cold and the flu were the same thing? Nope. Our resident GP, Dr Claudia Lee, cleared things up for us.

Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses that are transmitted via two ways. “One is through the air via respiratory droplets after someone has sneezed or coughed in close contact, especially if they didn’t cover their mouth or nose,” says Dr Lee. Here’s a gross fact for you: “After an uncovered sneeze, respiratory particles have been reported to travel up to three metres in front and one metre to the sides.” YIKES.

“Another is by ingesting respiratory particles from infected surfaces,” explains Dr Lee. “You may use the keyboard of someone with a cold or flu and forget to wash your hands prior to eating your lunch with your hands.” Basically, if someone is sick around you, be wary of touching the same things they have.

So how can you tell the difference? Well, a cold is nowhere near as nasty as the flu.

A cold

The common cold roughly lasts around 3-4 days and you’ll generally feel able to go to work (but let’s be real, you’d defs prefer to Netflix at home all day). The symptoms are mild and target your upper respiratory system – a sore throat, sneezing, mild fever, runny nose and a cough.

The flu

The influenza virus will hit you hard. “One day you’ll be feeling well, the next day you’ll find it hard to get out of bed and feel unable to go to work,” warns Dr Lee. Symptoms include a fatigue, sore throat, sneezing, severe headache, muscle pains, high fever and sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhoea. This can last for 2-3 weeks and it could possibly result in pneumonia, bacterial infections and even a visit to the hospital. Eeek.

According to Dr Lee, the most contagious period is when people have a fever and are sneezing and coughing in close contact with others.

Want to know how to avoid catching one of these viruses? Read our story here.