Is It a Cold or Is It the Flu?

As cold and flu season ramps up, we know a lot of our patients often wonder whether or not their symptoms are the result of a cold or the flu. Today, we look at the differences between the two common ailments.

Symptoms of a cold come on gradually,  whereas flu symptoms appear quickly with body aches and pains being so severe that many people are bedridden.  During a cold,  body aches and pains tend to me mild and although you may feel tired, a person can still do their daily activities.  A cold may cause some chills and fever is rare, compared with the flu  where a fever is expected.  A dry cough can be more severe with the flu than a cold. A sore throat, runny and stuffy nose can happen with either but sneezing is seen more with a cold.

If you experience the sudden onset of flu symptoms, there is an antiviral that can be prescribed.  It needs to be started within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms to have the most benefit, so don’t delay if you have these symptoms. Complications of the flu can include pneumonia, worsening of existing conditions such as asthma or COPD, having to be hospitalized and even death.  In Canada an average of 12,200 people are hospitalized and 3,500 people die each year from the flu.

The best prevention is having your flu shot and washing your hands regularly.  For more information visit canada.ca/flu.


Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health.  Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

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