When COVID-19 began to unfold in Canada earlier this year, many Canadians questioned whether their symptoms were related to a common cold, influenza, or actually COVID-19.
As we move into flu season and colder weather, these worries could arise again for people across the country. According to Statistics Canada, millions of Canadians become infected with seasonal flu each year.
To gain an understanding of the key differences in symptoms between a cold, flu, and the coronavirus — and how we can protect ourselves — Daily Hive spoke with Mona Sabharwal, Senior VP of Pharmacy Services at Rexall.
“Both COVID and the flu are contagious respiratory diseases, however, they are caused by different viruses,” explains Sabharwal. “Both viruses present as a wide range of illness from no symptoms or mild symptoms, through to severe illness.”
Sabharwal says the flu and COVID-19 viruses are spread in similar ways, and droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby.
“Unfortunately, people infected with the coronavirus or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick. Or, people can touch a surface with these viruses on it, and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their face,” she explains.
Those who are more at risk for severe flu include children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with underlying chronic medical conditions, and those who are immunosuppressed, says Sabharwal. “For COVID-19, our current understanding is that older age and underlying conditions increase the risk for more severe disease or outcomes.”
On the other hand, those experiencing symptoms of a cold could feel tired, display a cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny rose, experience a mild headache, or feel aches and pains, according to Health Canada.
Are there any overlapping symptoms that may cause confusion for Canadians? Sabharwal confirms there are a few. “Fever or chills, fatigue and cough, are common overlapping symptoms for both flu and COVID.”
She continues, “We all play a part in keeping ourselves and each other safe.” If anyone is feeling ill or has cold or flu-like symptoms, they can consult a Rexall Pharmacist by phone to address any questions and obtain advice.
Sabharwal says good habits like washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces at home, work, or school (especially when someone is ill) is also good practice to minimize the risk of spreading both viruses.
But the single best way to prevent the flu, Sabharwal explains, is to get vaccinated every year. “Pharmacists can help you stay healthy by administering your flu shot, and they can help you cope with your flu symptoms if you get sick,” she says.
The process involved in getting a flu shot has been enhanced at Rexall to ensure patient and employee safety. Through Rexall’s partnership with MedMe, patients can conveniently pre-book their flu shot by visiting rexall.ca or through Rexall’s Be Well app.
“Through Rexall’s digital scheduling tool, patients can select their local Rexall or the most convenient Rexall for them to receive their vaccination,” says Sabharwal. “Patients will be provided a COVID 19 screening questionnaire to complete 24 hours before their appointment, and once they arrive, they will be directed right to the pharmacist.”
To accommodate everyone safely and conveniently, Rexall is allowing for walk-in patients with the same enhanced safety measures in place, including in-store COVID-19 screening.
Upon arrival at Rexall, patients can expect to find floor decals indicating physical distancing requirements, increased sanitation protocols, and pharmacists wearing PPE throughout the vaccination process. Customers are required to wear masks or face coverings during their appointment and at all times in the store.