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Let’s start by sorting out the difference between colds and flu because there is a difference, although both are viral infections.  Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, so there is no point in trying to get some from your doctor to cure a cold.  In fact there is no cure; you just have to wait while your body’s natural defences fight off the virus.  This can take between 1-14 days, but you can effectively treat the symptoms and make yourself more comfortable with 'over-the-counter medicines'- these are medications that you can buy from your local pharmacist without a prescription. The pharmacist can best advise you on the most appropriate medication to purchase for your signs and symptoms.

Colds are caused by more than 100 different viruses, so many that it is impossible to make a vaccine that would stop us from getting them.

Colds are caught by breathing in microscopic droplets of fluid containing the virus sneezed or coughed out by a person who has a cold.  You can also pick up on your fingers infected droplets that fall onto surfaces, and then put them into your body by touching your nose or eyes.  Colds are most common in the winter months, but can occur at any time of year.


Flu is caused by different viruses from those that cause colds.  Although it is caught in the same way and has similar symptoms, flu is quite a nasty illness and it can lead to serious complications in vulnerable people, such as the elderly and people with certain long-term medical conditions.  You should be vaccinated every year if you are over 65, or if you have bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes, have a BMI > 30 or if your immune system is weakened by disease or treatment.


 Feeling unwell :

Do I have a Head Cold or Flu?

Head Cold


Sore throat 


Blocked sinuses


Mild Headache

Loss of appetite

Runny nose

Feeling drained

Aches and pains







Aches and pains

The flu usually begins suddenly (a cold is gradual).

If you require a cert from college, please contact the DIT Student Health Centre at the time of your illness, as retrospective certificates cannot be issued.

When you might need to see a doctor

Nearly all colds and ‘flu will clear up on their own, but there are some situations where you might need to see a doctor:

  • If you have had a cough for more than two weeks, or if it is getting worse over a shorter period

  • If the catarrh that you bring up is thick and a dark yellow, brownish or greenish colour, or has spots of blood in it

  • If you have a noticeably raised temperature with a cold, or if you have ‘flu and your temperature has not gone down after 48 hours

  • If you get shortness of breath, especially if you are elderly

  • If you feel severe pain in the chest when you breathe in or cough

  • If you have had a sore throat that is not getting better after a week, or a sore throat with persistent hoarseness, a rash, a stiff neck, or difficulty in swallowing

  • If you have earache

  • If you suffer from asthma or bronchitis, as a cold may lead on to a more serious bacterial infection and need treatment with an antibiotic

For more info contact the DIT Student Health Centre

Links: Consumer Health Information Centre

Who should get the vaccine?

Who should be vaccinated with seasonal flu vaccine?


Vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • persons 65 and over,
  • those over 6 months of age with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease,
  • people whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment,
  • persons with a body mass index (BMI) over 40,
  • healthcare workers,
  • residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions,
  • carers,
  • people with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs,
  • pregnant women and those 6 weeks after giving birth with long term medical conditions or whose immune system is not working,*
  • pregnant women and those 6 weeks after giving birth who do not have long term medical conditions but have not previously received Swine Flu vaccine.*

*can be given at any stage of pregnancy.

For minor viral syptoms you can access, your local pharmacist or the health centre.

Illnesses can include mild sore throat, head cold or cough