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Flu season preparedness and safety measures

Published on October 17, 2019 at 12:30 / Updated on September 1, 2022 at 19:41

The coming winter season also brings the return of colds and the flu. Are you sick and wondering if you have a cold or the flu? Read on to get more details!

Is it possible to differentiate between a cold and the flu?

Basically, while both are viral, the flu is much more severe than a cold. The follwing table compares the symptoms of the two infections.


Sudden onset

Temperature between 38°C and 40°C
(entre 100, 4°F et 104°F)
CoughCommon with sudden onsetCommon, but light to moderate with expectoration (phlegm)
Common and often severe
Aches and pains
Common and often severe
FatigueCommon and severe
Duration: A few days or more
Common, but mild
Nausea and vomitingCommon, but mildRare
Stuffy and runny noseRareCommon
Mal de gorgeCommon

How are cold and flu viruses transmitted?

These viruses are highly contagious. They can be transmitted through direct contact (e.g., a kiss), indirect contact (e.g., touching a contaminated doorknob) or through the air (when an infected person coughs).

How can I prevent the transmission of colds and the flu to my loved ones?

  • Effective handwashing: Good handwashing is an effective and proven prevention method.  Ideally, soap and warm water with a sufficiently long friction should be used. Ensure that you wash everywhere, including under the nails.  Alcohol-based leave-in disinfectants are an effective alternative, but since alcohol is drying, it should not be used too often.
  • Cough or sneeze while covering your mouth and nose: this will ensure that viruses are not propagated into the air.
  • Avoid contact with vulnerable people: young children, the elderly or people with chronic diseases are at higher risk of contracting colds and flu. Furthermore, they have a higher risk of complications. Postpone visits if possible if you are sick.
  • Influenza vaccination: There is no vaccine for colds, but there is an annual flu vaccine. It is developed each year with the strains most likely to be virulent during the winter period.  Many at-risk people could get their flu shot for free. Talk to your pharmacist to find out more about the flu vaccine.

Can a cold or the flu be treated with antibiotics?

Since these infections are caused by viruses, antibiotics, which attack bacteria, have no effect. Symptoms can be alleviated with medication, but usually the infection will resolve itself in about 7 days. Your pharmacist can help you choose a treatment to relieve your symptoms. Don't hesitate ask your pharmacist about tips to warding off a cold or the flu, especially if you are already taking other medications.

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