Cold vs. Flu: Know the Difference

We all know that getting sick over winter can be miserable. But, can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu? By learning more about the flu, you can protect yourself and your family this flu season.

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Cold vs. flu: What’s the difference?

The cold and the flu (also called influenza) may seem similar. Both are caused by viruses, and they have some symptoms in common. However, colds usually last a few days, while flu symptoms can be severe, can cause serious health problems and for most people will last between 7 and 10 days. On average, the flu is responsible for 12,200 hospital stays and 3,500 deaths each year.

Typical symptoms

usual, can be sudden and severe
very common
sometimes, usually mild
General aches and pains
usual, often severe
sometimes, usually mild
Fatigue and weakness
usual, severe
Sore throat
very common
sometimes, usually mild
Chest discomfort
usual, can be severe
Runny, stuffy nose

Flu: Get your flu shot

In the winter/spring of 2014/15, over 43,000 Canadians got the flu – that's 10,000 more than in each of the previous 2 flu seasons.

Unlike colds, the flu can cause serious complications, e.g. pneumonia, or can make chronic conditions worse, e.g. heart disease, diabetes, lung disease. The young, the elderly, and those with a chronic condition are at very high risk for complications. In 2014-15, nearly 8,000 Canadians spent time in hospital because of the flu.

The good news is that getting the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. In fact, the vaccine can prevent the flu in 80% of healthy people. And it’s free in some provinces.

In Canada, the best time to get your flu shot is between October and December. But if you miss this time, you can still benefit from getting the shot.

The Pharmacist at Walmart can give you your flu shot this season. Ask in-store for details.


Cold vs. flu: Fight the spread of germs

Both the common cold and the flu are spread through coughing, sneezing, and direct contact with contaminated surfaces. People can even spread the flu a day before they start to become sick. To stay healthy and avoid spreading germs, follow these tips:
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If you can’t wash your hands, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze into the crease of your elbow or into a tissue, not your hand
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Keep surfaces clean and disinfected, e.g. doorknobs, keyboards, light switches
  • If you get sick, stay at home. If your symptoms get worse, call your health care provider
For more information and advice, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart.

Your home flu/cold kit

The Pharmacist at Walmart can help you put together a home flu and cold kit. Make sure you have the following items in your home in case you need to look after someone with a cold or the flu:

  • Digital thermometer
  • Plenty of fluids, e.g., water or juice
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Throat lozenges
  • Saline nose drops or sprays
  • Facial tissues
  • Soap and water
  • Hand sanitizer
Before using any medicines, make sure you know:

  • How to use it, e.g., What is the dose? How often and when do you take it?
  • Is it safe to take it with your other medications or health conditions
  • How long to use it
  • Possible side effects
If you have any questions, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart.

Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart is always available to talk to you about how to manage cold and flu symptoms. Come on into the pharmacy and... Just ask!

Sponsored by

  • equateTM/MC
  • Helixia®

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

The pharmacist at Walmart does not endorse or recommend any sponsor or their products or services.
Any representation, performance claim, warranty or guarantee in any materials herein is the sole responsibility of the sponsor that has prepared such materials and is not independently verified by Walmart.

*Use as directed.
© Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2014

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HELIXIA® is a registered trademark of Pharmascience Inc.
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This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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