What you need to know

What you need to know to stay safe and well

During wintertime, as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, it's not uncommon to hear that people have come down with a nasty cold or are off work with the flu.

Colds and flus are both illnesses that affect our airways and how we breathe. They are commonly confused with one another because they share many common symptoms.

Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu is not as important as knowing what to do when you or someone you are caring for has flu-like symptoms and how to identify when you need to see your doctor.

How can I avoid getting a cold or the flu?

Take steps to build a strong immune system by:

  • Eating well (including 5+ fruit and vegetables per day).
  • Avoiding cigarettes.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Drinking plenty of water.

Reduce exposure to cold and flu bugs by:

  • Standing at least one metre from people with coughs and colds.
  • Washing your hands often throughout the day 
    - try to wash your hands after touching common areas such as door handles, phones, keyboards, and before you touch your face
    - the viruses that cause colds and flus can survive for hours on such surfaces.
  • Have an annual flu vaccination

What should you do when unwell with flu-like symptoms

  • Stay at home, away from other people.
  • Rest until your body temperature is normal and you are feeling well.
  • Drink small amounts of fluids often, to avoid dehydration.
  • Take appropriate medicines to relieve discomfort and fever if necessary. It is especially important to reduce fever if you are pregnant.
  • If you see a doctor or pharmacist within 48 hours of flu-like symptoms starting, you may benefit from antiviral medication (check the cost first).

When should you see a doctor

See a doctor if your child:

  • is not improving
  • is unusually irritable, grizzly or sleepy
  • is breathing quickly and noisily
  • is refusing to eat or drink – look for signs of dehydration: dry nappies or no tears when crying
  • is under 6 months old and has a fever
  • complains of sore ears or a sore throat
  • coughs a lot.

See a doctor if you: 

  • feel like your symptoms are getting worse
  • don't seem to be getting better after a few days.

If you are worried about how sick you or someone you are caring for are, don't hesitate to see a doctor. If you are unsure what to do, call Healthline 0800 611 116.