Key differences between cold, flu, hay fever & seasonal allergies - FluCamp

Cold, flu, hay fever and seasonal allergies! We have all had at least one at some point in time. Most people will have experienced them more than once and some may be very familiar with all of them. But how well do we know what Cold, Flu, Hay Fever and Seasonal Allergies are? How can we differentiate between them?

What is the Common Cold?

  • Key treatments for the common cold

What is the Flu?

  • Key treatments for the Flu

What is Hay Fever and Seasonal Allergies?

  • Key treatments for Hay Fever

Cold vs Flu vs Hay Fever & Seasonal Allergies?

Cold and flu are similar as both are caused by viral agents. Hay fever and seasonal allergies are not caused by viruses and are instead auto-immune responses to particles or pollen in the air. Interestingly, all of these illnesses can cause runny noses, coughs and headaches, and it can be hard to distinguish them from one another, especially considering they all have an effect on the respiratory system.

FluCamp is all about improving the health of the population, through increasing understanding around common viral illnesses and respiratory diseases. We believe the more that we understand how viruses affect the human immune system, the quicker we can find and test better ways to treat them. The end goal of clinical trials like those we conduct at FluCamp is to potentially eradicate these common illnesses completely, or at least make their treatment as easy and effective as possible.

What is the Common Cold?

The common cold is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system, mainly the throat, nose and sinuses. A cold can last anywhere from under one week to two weeks and are found all year round but are more common in the winter. Colds are rarely serious but can be more severe to the young, the old and those how are immunocompromised.

Cold symptoms:

Blocked nose

Runny nose

Sore throat




Raised temperature (severe cases)

Pressure in face and ears (severe cases)

Key treatments for the common cold: rest and hydration

If you feel yourself coming down with a cold it is best to rest and keep warm. It is also vital to stay hydrated during a cold. Adults with a sore throat may find it helps to gargle salt water to relieve a sore throat, however this is not recommended for children.

What is the Flu?

As previously mentioned, cold and flu are both viral infections. Both are spread in a very similar way as well; coughs and sneezes spread these diseases. It is very common for those suffering with these infections to cough or sneeze infectious viral agents into the air or onto surfaces where they can be picked up by other healthy people who can then become infected.

Unlike the common cold however, flu is more serious and can prove fatal to some people who are deemed to be vulnerable. Flu lasts a bit shorter compared to a cold but has a much quicker onset, with symptoms appearing within an hour or two, whereas cold symptoms will appear over a few days. Flu, just like the common cold is also more common in the winter. A flu vaccine is offered every year to help prevent the spread of flu and to protect those most at risk.

Advice: The best time to get your Flu Vaccine is during the Autumn, before the “flu season” starts!

Flu symptoms:


Sore throat

Runny nose


High temperature (over 37.2 degrees C)


Difficulty sleeping

Lack of energy


Ear pain (more common in children)

Key treatments for the Flu: rest and hydration

Make sure you speak to your GP about over the counter flu medicines and painkillers, which may be able to help suppressing the symptoms. If you have concerns about your flu like symptoms or if you are in an at-risk group, consider calling 111 for advice.

What is Hay Fever and Seasonal Allergies?

Unlike cold and flu, hay fever and seasonal allergies are not viral infections and instead are auto-immune responses to certain allergens. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen released from trees, flowers and grasses. Pollen is a very fine powder released from plants and can cause and allergic reaction if it comes into contact with a person’s mouth, nose, eyes, or throat. Pollen is most prevalent in late March to September.

Only some people will have hay fever as it is caused by the body’s immune system falsely recognising pollen as a dangerous invasive agent, like a virus.

Hay fever symptoms:

Blocked nose

Streaming/itching eyes




Skin rashes or redness

Tight chest or shortness of breath (especially for Asthmatics). Currently, there is no cure for hay fever and it cannot be prevented

Key treatments for Hay Fever: Antihistamines

However, please talk to your GP before starting new medication.
Ways to supress hay fever symptoms:

Reduce time outside

Remove flowers from home

Dry clothes indoors

Shower regularly

Wash hands

Compare the symptoms

ColdFluHay Fever
Blocked/ Runny Nose✔️✔️✔️
Sore Throat✔️✔️✔️
Muscle Ache✔️✔️
Sudden Onset✔️✔️
Loss Of Appetite✔️
Teary/ Red Eyes✔️


How will paid clinical trials help treat cold and flu

While there are treatments available for hay fever, cold and flu, there are not enough that treat the actual cause of the conditions. Most available treatments only treat the symptoms. With flu, it is especially important that the root cause of the disease is treated or that spread is prevented through the use of vaccines.

Join The Fight

At FluCamp, we are continuing the fight against the cold and flu viruses. We assist in research and development of treatments to help fight these viral and respiratory diseases. We always need volunteers to help us by giving their time to assist in the development of medical research. To apply to volunteer with us, go to to join the fight against cold and flu.

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Apply now and get up to £4,400 in compensation

An average clinical trial length is 11 – 14 days. To apply for FluCamp please complete our online form. We'll call you back within 24 hours to explain the next steps so you can decide if it's for you.