Is it a cold or the flu - and when to see the doctor?

OTTAWA, Jan. 11, 2017 /CNW/ - Is it a cold or the flu? It's a question for the ages.

You're achy, you're sniffling and you've got the chills. But you soldier on. After all, it's "just a cold."

Or is it?

The common symptoms of a cold include a runny and stuffy nose, sneezing and a sore throat. These can also be common symptoms of the flu. Running a fever and/or having a headache when you have a cold are rare – but these are common symptoms of the flu. You can sometimes have mild aches and pains when you catch a cold. Severe aches and pains are often the norm with seasonal flu.

Those are just some of the ways to tell the difference between the cold and the flu. It's important to make that distinction, as complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and respiratory failure, can be very serious.

See a health care provider right away if you develop the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish or grey skin colour
  • Bloody or coloured mucus or spit
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • High fever lasting more than three days
  • Low blood pressure

Additional symptoms to watch for in children:

  • Not drinking enough fluids or eating
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Irritability or not wanting to play or be held

And remember, prevention is in everyone's interest. Everybody over the age of six months should get the vaccine to prevent getting the flu.

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, to decrease the chances of spreading the flu, you should:

  • wash your hands frequently and thoroughly;
  • cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm, not your hand;
  • avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes with your hands;
  • eat healthy foods and be active to keep your immune system strong;
  • keep shared surfaces and objects clean; and
  • stay home if you are sick and get plenty of rest.

To learn more and to find out where to get the flu vaccine, visit

Click on the "Awareness Resources" link to find an informative guide titled "Is it a cold or the flu?"


SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

For further information: Media Contact, Public Health Agency of Canada, Media Relations, (613) 957-2983

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