8 differences between common cold and flu symptoms

In most cases, stuffy noses and sore throats can mean you either have the flu or a cold. Learn how to tell the difference with these eight common symptoms, and discover foods to help beat both.

By Tasha Zanin

Common symptons
Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/skynesher
They're back! Those unwelcome visitors commonly known as sore throat and stuffy nose have taken up residence in your head. If the symptoms gave some advanced notice of their arrival, you may just have a cold. But if they showed up suddenly, well, that may be the flu. Colds and the flu have a lot of the same symptoms. We look at the frequency and severity of eight of them to help you deduce which one you have.

1. Fever
Cold: Occasional; mild
Flu: Common; often above 38°C for up to four days

2. Headache
Cold: Occasional
Flu: Common; often severe

3. Stuffy nose
Cold: Common
Flu: Occasional

4. Chills
Cold: Rare
Flu: Common

5. Sore throat
Cold: Common; mild and intermittent
Flu: Occasional

6. Chest discomfort
Cold: Common; mild to moderate, with hacking cough
Flu: Common; can become severe (including coughing)

7. Fatigue and weakness

Cold: Occasional; mild
Flu: Usual; can last two to three weeks

8. Aches and pains
Cold: Occasional; mild
Flu: Common; often severe

Foods to help beat the flu
Stuck in bed with the flu? Try eating your way back to health. Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian in Vancouver, offers some suggestions that will have you on your feet again in no time.

Breakfast

Probiotic yogurt helps your body in two ways: The protein supports your immune system and the probiotic bacteria wards off disease-causing bacteria.

Morning snack
Boil water with two or three sliced lemons and an inch of sliced peeled ginger for 10 minutes. Strain and serve with raw honey (a natural antibiotic and antifungal food) to soothe your sore throat.

Lunch
Add oysters to your plate. They're loaded with zinc, which aids your immune system and helps create antibodies to fight infection.

Afternoon snack
Nibble on crystallized or pickled ginger. A natural stomach settler, this snack will help ease nausea.

Dinner
Saute some cremini mushrooms, an overlooked powerhouse when it comes to fighting colds. The polysaccharide compounds in mushrooms help activate your immune system. And they're one of the few foods containing vitamin D1, which the body converts to vitamin D3, a known immune-system booster.

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This story was originally titled "Is It a Cold or Is it the Flu?" in the November 2012 issue.

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