Distinguishing the difference: cold, flu and pneumonia

Distinguishing the difference: cold, flu and pneumonia


Key symptoms

While pneumonia may present symptoms similar to the common cold, it is in fact more severe. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, fever, shivering or sweating, chest pain, fatigue and a dry or phlegm producing cough.1

Tend to start more suddenly than those of the common cold and include high temperature, a headache, exhaustion and aches and pains.4 Symptoms tend to be more profound than a common cold.

Sore throat, blocked or runny nose, sneezing and a cough.5

What is it?

Caused by an infection from bacteria, viruses or fungi, which irritates the lungs and causes the tiny air sacs in your lungs to become inflamed and swell up with fluid.1

A common viral infection caused by the influenza virus, not caused by the same virus as a cold.4

A mild viral infection of the nose and throat.5

How long will it last and how can it be prevented?

It may take weeks to feel well again after catching pneumonia.2 Even mild cases of pneumonia can leave you with a cough that persists for two to three weeks after treatment.2
Vaccination can help reduce the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia1, the most common type of pneumonia.1

Generally lasts for around a week, however sufferers may feel tired for much longer.4 Unlike a cold, you can protect yourself against flu with a flu vaccine.4

A cold usually clears up on its own within a week or two.5 There is no reliable prevention for colds, but you can help stop your cold spreading to friends and family by washing your hands regularly and always using a tissue to cough or sneeze.5


Mild cases can usually be treated with antibiotics, lots of rest and fluids at home.Left untreated, pneumonia can be serious and life threatening.3

As with a cold, if you have flu you can look after yourself by having plenty of rest and fluids4.

For children over 6 years old and adults, over the counter flu remedies can be used to relieve symptoms.4,6
Sometimes, antiviral medication can be used to reduce symptoms and aid recovery.4

Unfortunately there is no cure for a cold, it is recommended to rest and drink plenty of fluids.  
For children over 6 years old and adults, over the counter cold remedies can be used to relieve symptoms.5,6


PP-VAC-GBR-0750 February 2019