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Are My Symptoms From The Common Cold, The Flu or COVID-19?

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symptoms from the common cold, the flu or COVID-19

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the common cold and a more serious illness such as the flu or COVID‑19.

How Can You Tell The Difference?

The coronavirus (COVID‑19) is an example of a highly contagious virus, which explains the high number of cases around the world.

While less contagious, the flu (short for influenza) can also be dangerous especially for people suffering from other health conditions.

It may be difficult to determine if someone has the flu or COVID‑19, as these viruses have several symptoms in common. Testing is still the most effective way to distinguish between these two viruses.

A cold is much more common and usually presents with milder symptoms. However, it can be complicated by a sinus or ear infection.

If you would like to learn more about the flu, visit our Flu Vaccination page

Am I Experiencing The Flu Or COVID‑19?

The flu and COVID‑19 can present with similar symptoms which can make it difficult to determine which virus you may have. Among the similar symptoms are: cough, fever and fatigue. Other possible symptoms include muscle aches and pains, as well as headaches.

How about the common cold?

The common cold is generally a minor illness compared to the flu or COVID‑19. Symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and sore throat, are mostly associated with a common cold.

Could it be a gastroenteritis or is it COVID‑19?

Although many people think that gastroenteritis is different than COVID‑19, these two viral infections can cause similar symptoms.

It is possible (although less frequent) for people infected with COVID‑19 to experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

You should be aware of signs and symptoms of dehydration and take steps to prevent it, as dehydration is the most common complication of gastroenteritis.

How can you tell the difference between any of these viruses?

Testing is the best way to get a diagnosis. At this time, if you experience symptoms indicative of one of these infections, it is recommended to contact your healthcare provider, local Health Unit or Telehealth Ontario for instructions.

Contact Telehealth Ontario at:

Flu vaccine

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone, age 6 months and older, is encouraged to get a flu shot. It is even more important for:

  • people age 65 and older
  • individuals with underlying medical conditions
  • individuals in contact with those at a high risk of developing complications:
    • healthcare workers
    • daycare workers
    • individuals in contact with high-risk individuals
    • individuals close to infants under 6 months
    • providers of essential community services: firefighters, police,ambulance drivers, etc.

Tips To Avoid Viral Infections

How can you take preventive measures to avoid catching viral infections?

Steps you can take to protect yourself and others include:

  • Maintain a minimum two-metre distance from other people.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a face covering in public places, on public transit and in places where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Follow respiratory etiquette (cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand).
  • Avoid all contact with infected (or possibly infected) people.
  • Stay at home when you know you are infected or have symptoms.

While the current pandemic is causing many inconveniences, for some it has contributed to beneficial, and hopefully sustainable, lifestyle changes. As far as infection control is concerned, let's hope that maintaining these new habits will continue to benefit everyone in the future.

Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about viral infections and the ways to prevent them.

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Tips To Avoid Viral Infections

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