Along with COVID-19, cold and flu season is something that we’re also now starting to see signs of. Last year we saw a dramatic decrease in the number of influenza cases being reported due to heightened COVID-19 public health measures. However, with restrictions more relaxed, influenza and common colds are things we need to protect ourselves against during this respiratory season. As symptoms of COVID-19 can often mimic that of a common cold or flu virus – such as cough, fever, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat – it’s important that you get tested if you develop symptoms. Equally as important to getting tested is ensuring you stay home when you are sick so that you do not pass influenza on to others.

When it comes to determining the difference between a common cold or flu virus, it can be difficult as they are also quite similar. However, symptoms of a cold are usually much milder compared to the flu. The most common symptoms associated with the common cold are a sore throat and runny or stuffy nose. A cold typically comes on gradually and lasts anywhere from 7 to 14 days, can be relieved with over-the-counter medications (such as decongestants and lozenges), and does not typically result in any serious health problems. With influenza, it can come on more abruptly. Symptoms may also include a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, in addition to body aches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and fever. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. It’s also possible to develop complications as a result of the flu, such as pneumonia or other infections, which can be life-threatening or even result in death. While anyone can get the flu, individuals who are over the age of 65 or those with underlying health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) are at greater risk of developing the flu and experiencing complications as a result.

The best way to protect yourself and those around you from influenza is to get vaccinated. Flu shots are available for free to anyone in British Columbia who is 6 months or older, and can be administered by your physician or at your local pharmacy. The flu vaccine is generally given as one dose; however, children under the age of 9 who have not had a seasonal flu vaccine will require 2 doses (the second dose being given 4 weeks after the first dose) to raise their protection level. Commonly, the flu vaccine is given via injection. However, children between the ages of 2 and 17 may also have the option of receiving FluMust® Quadrivalent nasal spray depending on availability.

If you are interested in getting your flu vaccine, you can find a flu clinic near you by visiting Immunize BC’s website at www.immunizebc.ca.