Flu versus Cold

By: Luigi Imbrogno, B.Sc., B.H.St.

It’s that time of year, the weather is changing, the leaves are falling, and cold and flu season is here! Cold and flu season is when we start to feel things like a stuffy nose, fever, cough, and sore throat. You may ask yourself: Is it the flu or common cold? It is hard to identify.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. The flu usually lasts longer than the cold—flu symptoms can last a few days to weeks, while cold symptoms typically last a few days. In certain populations, the flu can lead to severe illness. These groups include those immunocompromised, particularly in older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions.

The most effective form of protection against the flu is the annual influenza vaccine if you are eligible. Please discuss with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to get yours. It is quick, easy, and free of charge, and available readily available at most pharmacies and clinics. However, it’s a good idea to call ahead to ensure that your location of choice has a supply on hand.

When should I speak to my healthcare provider?

🔴Fever of 103°F or higher (in adults), fever of 100.4°F (in newborns up to 12 weeks), fever that rises repeatedly above 104°F in a child of any age, or fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 or more than three days in a child older than 2.

🔴Fever accompanied by sweating, chills, and a cough with coloured phlegm.

🔴Significantly swollen glands. Severe sinus pain, chest pain, or headache. Dizziness or confusion. Persistent vomiting or abdominal pain.

🔴Not drinking adequate fluids or signs of dehydration, such as urinating less often than usual.

🔴In children: Unusual sleepiness and failure to interact normally, persistent crying, ear pain, difficulty breathing, or stiff neck.

The list above is not exhaustive and does not constitute medical advice, if something feels unusual please visit your healthcare provider or your local hospital. In extreme cases, 911 should be called when you are having trouble breathing, or you feel very short of breath, or you have a severe headache or stiff neck and are confused or having trouble staying awake.

Public Health Agency of Canada | Agence de la santé publique du Canada
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthlink BC

Luigi Imbrogno, B.Sc., B.H.St., is an Interim Professional Home Economist, Community Health Professional, and Consultant