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April 15, 2014

Differences between the common cold and the flu

The common cold is an infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) caused by several virus strains. Often mistaken for the flu, it differs in terms of both its origin and its symptoms, which are rather benign.

Many of us have trouble differentiating a cold from the flu. This is understandable since both infections affect the upper respiratory tract in similar ways. Yet, they’re very different.

The best way to know if you have a cold or the flu is to pay close attention to your symptoms.

Symptoms

Cold

Influenza (flu)

Fever

Rarely

Usually. Between 38 ºC and 40 ºC. May last 2 to 5 days.

Cough

Rarely

Usually. May last 2 weeks.

Excessive fatigue

Rarely

Usually. May be severe.

Body aches and pain

Rarely

Usually. May be severe.

Nasal congestion and runny nose

Usually

Rarely

Chest pains

Mild to moderate

Usually. May be severe.

Headaches

Rarely

Usually. May be severe.

Nausea and vomiting

Rarely

Especially children.

Sore throat

Usually

Rarely

Sneezing

Usually

Rarely

Tiredness and weakness

Mild

Usually. May last 2 to 3 weeks.

Causes

The common cold normally hits from September to February, peaking during back-to-school time, the middle of winter and the beginning of spring.

Colds can be caused by one of 200 types of virus, the most common being the rhinovirus.

Much like the flu, the common cold is also transmitted easily from one person to another through tiny airborne droplets. When a person infected with a cold coughs or sneezes, he or she projects into the air millions of virus-laden particles, ready to contaminate others.

Treatment

There is no cure for the common cold. However, the following tips can help to keep symptoms from getting worse.

  • Stay home and rest. This will help you feel better and make sure you don’t pass it on.
  • Keep warm and drink plenty of fluids (warm liquids reduce congestion).
  • Gargle with salted water to ease your sore throat.
  • Keep the ambient air moist to relieve coughing (use a humidifier if needed).

Medications

Certain over-the-counter medications can help to reduce symptoms. These include:

  • Nasal decongestants in a tablet, spray or drops
  • Cough suppressants for dry coughs
  • Expectorants to alleviate congestion
  • Antihistamines to reduce nasal discharge
  • Analgesics for pain relief.

To learn more about these medications, ask your pharmacist. He can help you choose the medication best suited to your symptoms.

Ironically, the best protection against the common cold is to catch it. In fact, once you are infected with a given strain, you will be immunized against it for several months.

In-store health services

If you have any other questions about the common cold, talk to your pharmacist. He’s there to help! 

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.