Colds are more common in the winter months, and they’re very “contagious” – if people around you have a cold, you’ll probably get it as well.
So how can you talk about having a cold in English? Check out the useful vocabulary to talk about cold symptoms; plus the different types of cold and flu.
What does “have a cold” mean
If you “have a cold”, you have the cold virus. You’ll probably experience these symptoms:
a runny or blocked nose
For a runny nose, the only cure is to keep blowing your nose to keep it clear. If you have a blocked nose, you can also take “over the counter” medications like “ibuprofen” which are “anti-inflammaries”, or “sudafed” which is a “decongestant”. (It will unblock your nose.)
If something is “over the counter” it means that you can buy it without a prescription from the doctor.
blocked sinuses (pronounced si-nus-is).
Your sinuses are the passages in the bones that go to your nose.
a cough (pronounced “coff”)
A cough can be “dry” or “productive”. A dry cough means that you produce no “phlegm” (pronounced “flem) while a productive cough means that you produce phlegm (a mucous from your throat).
a sore throat
It hurts to swallow or to speak.
When you sneeze, you expel air through your nose. After someone sneezes, remember to say “Bless you!”
You feel hot and you might even sweat.
aches and pains
Your body feels heavy and parts of your body hurt. You probably also feel tired all the time!
a few sniffles
If you don’t have a serious cold, you might just have a few sniffles. This is when you sniff, but you don’t need to blow your nose.
Is it correct to say “catch a cold”
We say “to catch a cold” or “to get a cold“. For example:
“I think I’ve caught your cold” or
“I hope you don’t get my cold”
Other useful phrases…
“I’m feeling a bit run down” (= no energy, always tired, a little ill) or
“I’m feeling under the weather” (= a little ill)
“I’m coming down with something” (= I’m getting an illness)
“I might be coming down with something” (= I think I might get an illness soon)
Is there a cure for a cold
Don’t take antibiotics, as these don’t work with viruses. But there are plenty of other things you can do to help you feel better.
get plenty of rest and fluids
Sleep as much as you can, and drink lots of water to stay rehydrated.
drink hot lemon and honey
It doesn’t always taste nice, but you’ll get some Vitamin C for your cold, and the honey is also good for sore throats. I also add cinnamon, which has antibacterial properties.
stay warm and wrap up
If you go out, make sure you wrap up (wear a scarf, hat and warm clothes).
have a hot bath and make yourself a hot water bottle
A hot bath can make you feel better if you are achy, while a hot water bottle is comforting
What’s the difference between a cold and the flu
We say “a cold” but “the flu”.
The flu (= influenza) will make you feel much worse than a cold. You’ll have a high temperature, and you should stay in bed. In fact, you might not be able to get up at all. If you have a respiratory illness (like asthma) you should think about getting a “flu jab”, which is a vaccination against the flu.
There’s also “manflu”, which is a little joke. Only men get “manflu”… When men get a cold, they might exaggerate the symptoms and tell everyone it’s the flu. But in fact, it’s just a cold!
It’s important to be able to use natural phrases when you speak English. I show you the most common ones to talk about health and illness in my fluency programs – which you get for free when you join the English Fluency Club.
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