It’s one of my favourite times of year again. I love the crisp cool air and seeing the beautiful colour of the changing leaves. However, as a mom and Nurse Practitioner I also know fall and winter also mean that cold and flu season is upon us. With a baby in daycare, I need to up my game to protect myself and my family, because life doesn’t stop when I get sick.

The common cold and flu (influenza) are terms often thrown around and cause confusion because they are both contagious and the symptoms are similar. So how do you know what you have? Well check out this chart to see the differences between the common cold and flu (influenza).1

How to know if you have a Common Cold or the Flu?

PresentationCommon ColdFlu (Influenza)
How fast does it startUsually starts with mild symptomsSudden and severe symptoms
How long it can lastUsually 7-10 daysUsually 7-10 days
HeadacheSometimes; mildCommon
General aches and painsSometimes; mildOften and can be severe
Sneezing and runny noseCommonSometimes
Generally feeling tired or weakSometimes; mildCommon; can last 2-3 weeks
Extreme tirednessUnusualCommon and starts early
CoughSometimes; mild-moderateCommon and can be severe
Possible complicationsCan lead to sinus congestion and/or ear achesCan lead to pneumonia which is a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to treat it.

Everyone is at risk this cold and flu season with the average adult catching at least two to three colds per year.

Proactive protection for this cold and flu season

Get the flu shot.

There is a new flu shot every year because the flu (influenza) is a sneaky virus that can change the strains that are present in our communities every year. New vaccines are released each year to try to keep up with the virus. Also the vaccine’s immune protective abilities only last about a year. So it’s important to get your flu shot every year.2

Wash your hands and do it right!

When you’re washing your hands think about why you are doing it. You are trying to rid your hands of any dirt, grime and bugs you may have come in contact with. Research says to effectively clean your hands, you should wash them with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds.3

Take care of yourself with a good dose of top to bottom self-care.

Let’s face it. Life is crazy busy. But if we don’t take care of ourselves how do we expect to stay healthy? Make sure you schedule time to get enough sleep, do regular exercise, eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water and find ways to reduce stress in your life.

Eekk, I’m already sick! Now what??

There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and feeling those first signs of a cold and flu coming on. When this happens to me, I feel a panic begin to build. I start to think of all of things I need or want to get done over the next few days and worry I might not feel up to it now that I’m sick. Because life doesn’t stop for flu season, I need to do everything I can to feel better as quickly as possible.

Here is a list of what you can do to help you feel better.4

  1. Take it easy and get plenty of sleep.
  2. Pull out the humidifier. It will help you breathe easier and help you clear out that nasty congestion
  3. Stay clear of alcohol and tobacco.
  4. Gargle salt water, suck on lozenges, or make a warm drink of honey, ginger and lemon to help with a sore throat.
  5. Use natural health product symptom relief solutions to help with symptoms of fever, runny nose, sore throat, and coughs. If you’re suffering from body ache and head aches, over-the-counter pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) can help ease those symptoms. Please practice responsible adulting and follow the instructions on the box/bottle.


1. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, 2018.The Flu. Retrieved from: View Here

2. Toronto Public Health. 2018. Influenza fact sheet. Retrieved from: View Here

3. Jensen, D., Shaffner, D., Danyluk, M., Harris, L. (2012). Efficacy of handwashing duration and drying method. Retrieved from: View Here

4. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, 2018.The Flu. Retrieved from: View Here

To be sure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label.