Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to grade schooler, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national parenting and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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What Are The Differences Between Cold And Flu?

"I think," I tell my husband, "that he has THE FLU." Dun dun dun DUNN!

I then immediately come down with guilt for not schlepping my 12-year-old son to get the flu shot out of sheer laziness on my part. 

"Maybe it is just a cold," says my husband. "And who cares what it is?"

And then hit me. As long as the kids are sick but not overly sick; why should I care if it is the flu or a cold? Just because the government has released more Tamiflu; and flu season has been "nasty and deadly and normal"? This does not mean we are in a pandemic, or that I should panic, because that's the nature of influenza. (I don't do well in pandemic season, one day I will write about our SARS experience that left me scarred forever).

So, I set off to find the differences between the common cold and flu:


Causes: a viral infection with many subsets (which is why there is "no cure for the common cold")

Symptoms: runny nose, may start with a sore throat, congestion, fevers in young children more often than in adults, or no fever

Treatments: TLC, liquids, chicken soup, rest, sleep, moisturizer for the sore nose, over-the-counter pain killers


Causes: Flu viruses circulate early November to March, usually peaking around late November to January

Symptoms: Comes on quickly, headaches, aches and pains, fever, exhaustion, fatigue, occasionally a stuffy nose and sore throat, cough which can persist and become more severe, diarrhea and vomiting is more common in kids

Treatments: TLC, liquids, chicken soup, rest, staying home from work/school, over-the-counter painkillers

Colds are annoying and can last a while, but overall influenza can be more serious -- especially for those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. So I asked my favourite tweetrician (I think he made up that word) pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Flanders, what should a parent do?

His answer (in a series of tweets, thanks to a Rogers outage), said that while some symptoms may overlap, the flu can really set someone back and can develop into a super-infection. So it is important to take the time to recuperate.

"It's really important, if one has the flu, to not go to school, not go to work, stay home and recover," he said. "In other words, you might have a mild case of the flu but pass it on to a newborn baby or a frail old person and there can be life-threatening consequences."

He says that frequent hand-washing, good cough hygiene and other common sense measures should be used to limit the spread. And of course, the flu vaccine is a "safe and effective prevention" tool. 

After studying the symptoms and my son, I have decided he has a very bad cold with a fever. But unless he gets much worse or his fever lasts a few more days I won't take him to the doctor and risk infecting people in the waiting room. 

In the meantime, my hands are cracking from the amount of hand washing I have been doing.

Do you worry about the flu?

Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about when Anderson Cooper got involved with the "mommy wars".

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Reader Comments (8)

I think that you should get some elderberry syrup to help your family get over this quicker, whether it is a cold or the flu! If anyone takes anything from this post, please let it be that Elderberry Syrup is a wonderful tool for both preventing and healing from colds/the flu. Without any potential risk of side effects, and is safe to give to everyone. The flu shot is not nearly as effective as they say, and there have been no long-term studies as to the safety of yearly vaccinations, OR if the aluminum from them would accumulate in the brain (aluminum is highly neurotoxic). It may also be of interest to some to know that in children under 2, the flu shot is no more effective than a placebo. In other words, for children under 2, the flu shot bears a rate of being 0% effective, and will not offer them protection. It has also been proven that the flu shot does not reduce hospitalization or death rates from the flu.

As with all vaccines, it is important to know the potential risks involved before you get it, and whether the benefits of the shot will outweigh those risks. The flu shot, as with any other, does have risks and is NOT 100% safe OR effective. Please do your research, and make an informed decision based on your own family's circumstances. The flu shot is NOT for everyone.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
Try letting your body take care of itself for a change instead of filling it with chemicals. I've had the flu twice in the last 14 years, with the first of them being a week after I received my very last flu shot. That flu lasted for a week. The other time was six years ago. That one lasted two days. I'm not saying I don't get sick. I'm a 42 year old male who smokes and hasn't had anything close to good eating habbits since I was a child. As a child, I was at home sick for at least a month of every year while my aunt, a nurse, filled me with "necessary" medications.The human body is able to take care of itself. Period. How can it learn to take care of itself if you're filling it with chemically produced medications.I don't know how many times my children have come to visit me for the weekend(I'm divorced and they are young), feeling sick and on medications recomended by their pharmacist grandmother. I do NOT give them their meds for the two days I have them and they go home symptom free. Their mother fills them with cold medications that do nothing but make the symptoms linger. They don't actually have colds. They have allergies!!! I give my oldest 1 allergy pill after a day off the cold medications and his symptoms are gone. My youngest is too young for them so he gets nothing but it only takes 2 extra days for his symptoms to dissapear.Do you honestly believe that flu shots are free? Your government pays for them with your tax dollars. They buy them from the pharmaceutical companies that donate billions of dollars to support(manipulate) them.Why don't wild animals get the flu? Because they have a NATURAL immune system thats protects them from viruses. Try being a wild animal for a couple seasons and enjoy your healthy body.
January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
I strongly encourage everyone considering the flu shot to read through the link I have posted above.
January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
amen, brother.
January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
Hi I have been sick since Dec.26th. Sore throat first, bad headaches, lot of body pain, then cough-cough-cough. After 10 days and no sign of recovery I went to the doctor. My flu has developed into pneumonia. I am on a puffer and antibiotics and am not doing much better yet. It is going to take awhile. I am resting and not going outside until I am better. I am 66 and do not want to risk getting any worse. I live in Newfoundland ,where it gets cold. Right now we are having a snowstorm. So glad I am retired,and only have to sit and look out the window. Liquids,rest and if not improving after 5 or 6 days---go to the doctor. Bye, Bets
January 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbety scott
I never get sick since I eat well, take vitamins and drink home made orange juice with lemon every night before going to bed. I sleep with open windows 12 months a year. Fresh air is very important for the immune system by building a resistance to colds. I never had any flue vaccines and now at 66 I am in perfect health.I don't trust any chemicals which are in the vaccine. I only take natural remedies if I do get a cold which is rare.
January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Hmmm, I don't get "sick" normally either as I am lucky enough to have an extremely strong emune system. However, many do not and this is why I get the flu shot! NOT TO PROTECT ME PER SE BUT TO KEEP ME FROM PASSING THE GERMS ONTO THOSE WHO CANNOT FIGHT IT! Because another known fact about the flu is that you can carry the germs and pass them onto others and not get the flu yourself...the flu shot helps to prevent this form happening. Just sayin!
January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
Just because the government has released more Tamiflu; and flu season has been "nasty and deadly and normal"? This does not mean we are in a pandemic, or that I should panic, because that's the nature of influenza. <---This, right here...You hit the nail on the head, Emma.

The government or pharma companies put out all these reports on the news and use scare tactics to get their product in high demand to sell more and make more money. During the H1N1 scare, the local Health Unit guy pushed the shot on everyone, but the District Health Unit high-up muck-muck said that it was no worse than the regular flu.

If there is one thing the pharm companies and governments are good at, it's scaring the daylights out of people to peddle their wares....And on some of us, it works; I'm not embarassed to admit that when I have a patient come into the First Aid Room complaining on flu-like symptoms, I'm gloved, gowned, and masked-up, throw out whatever pen they use to sign the Assessment Form, and wash ANYTHING they might have touched with a liberal amount of Manorapid, then proceed to scrub any and all of my exposed skin with it....
January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFAsec48

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