Do you have a cold or the flu? Or is it COVID-19?

During winter months, one of the most common illnesses is a cold or the flu. At the current times, there is also COVID-19 to watch out for.

Coldsinfluenza (the flu) and COVID-19 all affect your airways and how you breathe. A common cold is not usually serious, but the flu and COVID-19 can be life-threatening.

Colds, the flu and COVID-19 are all caused by viruses. In most people, your immune system will kill the virus, so you can treat mild-to-moderate symptoms at home (or in managed isolation for COVID-19). Antibiotics won't help with viral infections.

Some people are at greater risk of complications, including young children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with long-term conditions, and they may need more treatment.

If you are high-risk for COVID-19 make sure you get tested.

Vaccination is your best defence against the flu. Hand washing and a healthy lifestyle are your best protection against colds. Learn about preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to many other respiratory illnesses such as colds or the flu.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include: cough, high temperature (at least 38˚C), shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, temporary loss of smell.

Current World Health Organization assessments suggest the incubation period of COVID-19 to be 2-10 days.

If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to a health professional

  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
  • your doctor, or
  • your iwi health provider

If you’re outside New Zealand call +64 9 358 5453

While these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19, one may find himself/ herself without any symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without any symptoms or needing special treatment, and for the majority – especially for children and young adults – illness due to COVID-19 is generally minor. WHO suggested that 80% of infections show mild or no symptoms, 15% exhibit severe symptoms, and 5% fall critically ill.

Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

When to seek immediate medical help

If you have any of the following signs you may be seriously unwell and need emergency care:

  • difficult or painful breathing
  • bluish lips or tongue
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • severe shaking, rigors
  • confusion or difficult to wake
  • stiff neck
  • rash with purple or red spots or bruises
  • clammy skin
  • not urinating or dark coloured urine

Phone 111 or go to the hospital emergency department immediately. Do not delay

Looking after yourself when you have colds or the flu

If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.

  • Rest: helps your body to recover and avoid spreading the virus
  • Fluids: Drink plenty of water, lemon & honey or warm soups to avoid dehydration
  • Nasal congestion: Decongestants from the pharmacy
  • Cough: Cough medicines from the pharmacy
  • Aches & pains: Paracetamol or cold medicines, if no better, ask your doctor or a pharmacist
  • Avoid antibiotics: They don’t help

Information about testing for COVID-19

For the latest updates, information and advice on COVID-19, click here