Do you have a cold or the flu? Most don't know the difference
HALIFAX -- Many use the terms ‘cold and flu’ interchangeably, but making a distinction between the two is very important.
"I feel like a cold is mostly in your sinuses, the cough, the sore throat," said Megan Rodgers, out for a walk in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park on Monday.
"Flu comes along with a lot of other symptoms you wouldn't have with a cold,” said Daniel Aucoin.
"Flu, you can certainly get really sick from, get pneumonia things like that,” said Ashlee McLeod.
Halifax pharmacist Curtis Chafe recognizes there is some misunderstanding.
"When people think of cold and flu, a lot of the time they put them together. Even when you look at the products to help you with symptoms, they're often marketed as ‘cold and flu.”
Chafe said the common cold usually has a gradual onset of symptoms and is contained around the head. The common cold usually isn’t accompanied with aches, pains, or a fever.
"You just usually feel stuffy, and full in the head, and that's that," said Chafe.
On the other hand, influenza is usually more serious.
"The number one thing is definitely fever, so people do run hot, they also have aches and pains because the inflammation is all throughout their body. Usually there are chest symptoms as well, so it's not just localized to the head," Chafe said. "For most people they have a lot of fatigue and it lasts for about a week before you're feeling better."
If you have the flu, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug like Tamiflu or Relenza. Both work best when taken within 48 hours of symptoms and may shorten the duration of the flu by one to two days if taken twice a day over a five-day period.
The cold and flu do share one trait: When it comes to treatment, antibiotics won't help.
"They're both viruses, and unfortunately antibiotics don't work against viruses," Chafe said.
Knowing when to stay home and for what illness is the part of the battle too.
"I would definitely stay home if I had the flu," said Rodgers. "I would actually stay home for the first couple days of a cold probably as well."
"You can pass either on to folks, but the flu is the worst of the two," said McLeod.
Chafe said it's best to stay home and rest when you're unwell.
"But the flu is one of those things that is easily transmissible. The best thing you can do is get your flu shot. That will help protect you as well as protect other people,” he said. “But if you are unlucky enough to have influenza then the best thing to do is stay at home, make sure you’re getting the rest and the fluids and looking after yourself."
The flu shot is still available and while the ideal time to get one is in the fall, there are still several weeks of the traditional flu season left to go.