Differences between a common cold & respiratory tract infection


E.C | Pharmacist

12/28/20222 min read

Usually when you have cold or flu, the first thing that comes to your mind is whether the symptoms you are having are normal or if you need to contact your GP. This article will guide through the main red flag symptoms that you need to watch out for when you have a seasonal cold.

Common cold is a viral infection mainly leading to general malaise affecting the respiratory tract. Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are mainly caused by bacterial infection and sometimes needs urgent treatment with antibiotics if symptoms get worse. Some common respiratory tract infections include: tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis etc.

Symptoms of common cold:

  • elevated temperature

  • sore throat

  • headache

  • blocked/runny nose

  • sneezing

  • muscle pain

  • sinus pressure

If symptoms don't improve after 7 days, if aged under 5 or over 64, if pregnant , if suffering from other health condition, you have to contact your GP.

How to manage symptoms of common cold and RTIs:

  • Taking supplements to boost your immunity such as vitamin D, C, or zinc.

  • Staying hydrated as much as you can.

  • Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen containing products for fever and general aches. Ibuprofen is contraindicated if taking certain medications such as blood thinners or methotrexate. Please consult with your pharmacist for possible drug interactions.

  • Decongestant nasal sprays or tablets are useful in case of blocked/runny nose or sinus pressure. Check with your pharmacist if you are using other medication or diagnosed with other health conditions such as hypertension. These medications tend to affect your blood pressure.

  • Taking cough syrups will help to treat any cough present. If your cough is phlegmy and productive using a cough expectorant such as guaifenesin can help to clear out the mucus buildup. If your cough is dry, using cough suppressants such as dextrometorphan can help to easen up the cough.

    Before purchase please check with the pharmacist or read the patient information leaflet (PIL) to check the age licensing, if can be taken in pregnancy or when taking other medications or having other health conditions.

Symptoms of RTIs:

  • fever (above 38 C)

  • blocked/runny nose

  • chest pain/tightness

  • coughing up phlegm

  • breathlessness/ wheezy

  • muscle aches

  • headaches

  • sore throat