Cold Versus the Flu

Doon Mills Pharmacy
260 Doon South Dr.
Kitchener, Ont.
N2P 2L8
Connie Phillion, Pharmacist
Cold vs. Flu – what is the difference?
General Info:
Signs or Symptoms
7-10 days
Often lasts 10-14 days
Runny, Stuffy nose
Sore throat
Unusual, high fever (39-40C
/ 102-104F), sudden onset,
lasts 3-4 days
General Aches and pains
Sometimes, mild
Common, can be severe
Common, can be severe
Fatigue and weakness
Common, severe, can last 23 weeks
Chest discomfort/cough
Mild to moderate
General Information
 the common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by a variety of viruses
 Influenza (“the flu”) is an airway infection caused by the influenza virus
 since both are caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help speed recovery
 symptoms can be similar, but the flu symptoms are far more serious and may take a full 6
weeks for full recovery
 The flu has a sudden onset – often you can feel fine in the morning, and by that night you
could have severe aches, pains and a fever
Treatment: Non-Drug Measures
 Drink plenty of fluids – to help loosen mucus and prevent dehydration. This will help your
body clear the virus more quickly too.
Plenty of rest will help your body to recover more quickly
 Nasal saline drops or sprays – can help to loosen nasal mucus. Great for infants or kids.
 Netti pots or Nasal “washes” use saline to help clear the sinuses and work great!
 Nasal syringe for infants to help clear mucus
 Use a humidifier or vaporizer to moisturize the air – very helpful for a cough!
Both work well. Humidifiers use cool air and a vaporizers use steam/warm water. Use
caution with a vaporizer due to risk of accidental burns. Use fresh water daily
(distilled preferred) to minimize bacterial growth.
Topical agents (Vicks Vaporub etc)
 contain camphor, menthol, eucalyptus oil to help relieve cough and nasal congestion. Keep
out of reach of children to avoid accidental ingestion. Use loose clothing to cover the
site to prevent from touching. Children less than 2 years old should use Vicks babyrub –
without camphor to decrease risk of absorption.
Medication Treatments
 non-drug measures are often the best solution for nasal congestion and cough in children
 fever or pain reducers (Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
are appropriate for adults or children – ask your pharmacist for the dosage.
 Decongestants – help to relieve nasal congestion – not recommended for less than 6. Also
not safe for those with medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
(always ask your pharmacist or doctor before using)
 Cough suppressant – to suppress a dry, nonproductive cough
 Expectorant – can help to loosen and thin mucus
 Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before using medication to treat cold or flu
symptoms. Certain cold medications can conflict with your prescription medicines so be
sure to ask your pharmacist or physician before taking anything over the counter.
 Frequent hand washing with soap and water is still the best method of preventing the
spread of cold and flu viruses
 Hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water is not available (keep out of reach from
unattended children)
 Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm
When to call the doctor?
Fever in infant less than 3 months old
Fever higher than 104F / 40.5C – or fever lasting more than 48 hours
Ear or sinus pain
Severe throat pain
Yellow eye discharge
Symptoms not improving within 10-14 days
Feel free to speak to your pharmacist if you need help or have any questions!