Cold & Flu 101, And How to Get Symptom Relief with Vicks DayQuil and Nyquil

The common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. While the flu is caused only by the influenza virus, colds are caused by rhinovirus and a number of other viruses. The three things that distinguish cold and flu symptoms are severity, speed of onset, and type of symptoms.

A cold typically comes with a stuffy nose, sore throat, and/or sneezing and symptoms develop gradually. Flu symptoms are typically more severe than cold symptoms and tend to come on more quickly. Symptoms more common with the flu include fever, fatigue, and/or aches. Cold and flu symptoms are very similar, though, so it’s best to confirm which respiratory virus you have with a flu test when symptoms arise. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you need to take a flu test.

Learn more about the differences between a cold and the flu.

What to Do for a Cold or Flu

There is no cure for the common cold. It’s important to get plenty of rest and fluids while your body fights off a cold virus. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, so they can’t treat a cold, since it is caused by a virus.

The flu, caused by the influenza virus, also requires you to get plenty of rest and fluids while your body fights off the virus. Most people recover from the flu on their own. But there are anti-viral prescription drugs that may be used for treatment in patients who are diagnosed within 48 hours from the start of their symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you need an anti-viral drug.

How to Stop Cold and Flu Symptoms from Getting Worse

Though there are limited options to treat a cold or flu, you don’t need to suffer through the symptoms. Vicks has plenty of over-the-counter multi-symptom relief medicines that can provide relief from even your worst cold and flu symptoms. The key is to identify what combination of symptoms you are experiencing, so you can pick products with the active ingredients that relieve those symptoms. Check out the Vicks Product Recommender for help finding the best product for your symptoms.

DayQuil SEVERE, for example, relieves headache, fever, sore throat, minor aches & pains, chest congestion, nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and cough. Acetaminophen reduces fever, and relieves headache, sore throat, and minor aches & pains. Guaifenesin relieves chest congestion by thinning and loosening mucus. Phenylephrine is a decongestant for nasal and sinus congestion. Last, Dextromethorphan decreases the urge to cough by acting on the cough reflex center in the brain.

NyQuil SEVERE relieves headache, fever, sore throat, minor aches & pains, nasal congestion, sinus pressure, sneezing, runny nose, and cough. To relieve sneezing and runny nose, NyQuil has the antihistamine Doxylamine Succinate.

DayQuil & NyQuil have plenty of variations based on symptoms, flavors, and desired sensory experience. Be sure to read each label and use as directed.

Learn more about how to choose a medicine for your cold and flu symptoms.

How long is a cold or flu contagious?

A cold is contagious for the first 2-3 days after symptom onset. The flu is highly contagious and has a short incubation period, meaning that symptoms come on quickly, within 1-4 days of exposure. If you have a cold or the flu, stay home and away from others so that you don’t spread it to others.

Both colds and the flu are spread through droplets that enter the air when those infected with the virus cough, sneeze, or talk, and the droplets find their way to a person’s eyes, mouth, or nose. You can also catch a cold or flu by touching an object or surface that an infected person came into contact with, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

How Long Does a Cold or Flu Last?

Cold symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a week. Flu symptoms typically last less than a week, with symptoms like fever typically not lasting longer than 10 days. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.