Winter is the season for hot chocolate, ice skating…and unfortunately the sniffles. A cold or flu can take down even the healthiest of us over the winter months. So, how can you and your family stay healthy and active this winter season?

Let’s start with the facts.
Colds and the flu share many symptoms, but they’re actually very different. The flu is usually much worse than the common cold, with more intense symptoms and far more serious complications.

So, how can you tell if you or your family is suffering from a run-of-the-mill cold or flu that might need more medical attention?

If you just have a runny or stuffy nose, the culprit is more likely to be a common cold. However, if you also have a fever and chills, a headache, tiredness, and feel like your entire body hurts … it’s likely the flu. Colds generally don’t result in serious health problems, but in extreme cases, the flu can lead to pneumonia, bacterial infections and other complications that may require hospitalization.

Here are a few more fast facts about how to compare the flu versus colds*:

  • Did your symptoms appear quickly? If they did, then it’s likely the flu.
  • Did your symptoms also include a headache? Headaches are rarely associated with the common cold and are more likely to occur with the flu.
  • Do you have chills, aches, and pains?  If yes, it is likely the flu.
  • Do you have extreme tiredness? Feeling exhausted can be a sign of the flu … tiredness may last for 2-3 weeks.
  • Did you get a fever? High fevers which begin suddenly and last 3-4 days are often a sign of the flu, and less common with colds.

So how do you protect yourself from the flu?
With new strains of the seasonal flu virus circulating each year, the flu vaccine is the best way to protect you and your children from coming down with the flu and spreading it to your colleagues.

Everyone six months of age and older should be immunized for the flu each season. It’s a free, simple shot that’s available from late October to March. The flu shot is safe to have while pregnant or while breastfeeding.

You can also help protect your children from the flu by teaching them to regularly wash their hands with warm water and soap – and to cough and sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands.

Need help determining if you and your family have a cold or flu?
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*Reference & further information: