Is it just a cold or something else?

When Canada decides to don its winter parka and toque, it doesn’t do it subtly. One evening, you fall asleep to a cool fall night and the next day is when old man winter strolls along and blankets the land in snow. Along with the soft blanket comes a crisp, dry air that helps stabilize viruses floating around in the air.

Cold and Flu

Owen Wiseman

27 October 2020

What are common symptoms of the average cold?

Most of us have gone about our day feeling a sense of heaviness encroaching upon us. Our thinking becomes a little less clear, we may feel sleepy, and coughs seem to get more frequent. Perhaps it is a stuffy nose that keeps you up at night as you sniffle your way through sleep.

Now, if you're wondering what sort of signs, symptoms or patterns should put you on high alert, read on:

  • Symptoms last for more than 4 days. The average common cold can last anywhere from five to seven days, with the severity of symptoms tapering off towards the end. When symptoms last for more than four days and show no signs of subsiding, or instead becoming worse, it is time to visit your healthcare provider.
  • Symptoms go away and came back. The average Canadian struggles through about one or two colds each year. The immune system may become vulnerable due to stress or a change in season, making you vulnerable to getting another cold. Having symptoms disappear and then return may indicate a secondary infection with another type of pathogen that snuck in while your defenses were down. If you start to show signs of a repeat infection, or new symptoms, get checked out. Supporting your immune function preventatively can help you stave off any repeat infections.
  • Back from a trip. One of the most common questions you get asked in a visit with your primary care provider is whether you have traveled recently. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, this question has more relevance than ever. Our bodies often become 'acclimatized' to local pathogens as our environment may be inhospitable to certain viruses or parasites. When you travel to other regions, you may be exposed to species that your body has not encountered before. If the body has not gone to war with this specific pathogen, it doesn't have the antibodies required to fight it effectively. Many major hospitals in large metropolitan areas are equipped with a tropical disease unit where they treat Canadians ill with something they picked up while abroad. One would hardly consider a parasite the type of souvenir they want to bring back.
  • High-fever or low-grade fever. Developing a fever is one of the oldest methods the body has in defending against bugs. By raising the internal thermostat, the body becomes inhospitable for a variety of species trying to set up shop. When you take out the first wave of invaders, otherwise known as the inoculum, they lack the numbers to cause any significant infection. Though if there is a chronic low-grade fever, or extremely high fever that reaches temperature of 40C or above, it's worth a visit to your doctor.
  • Other symptoms. Shortness of breath, neck ache, skin rash, headache, stomach issues, chest pain, and body aches are all considered to be abnormal cold symptoms meaning that it's unusual for them to appear. There is a menagerie of conditions that can start out resembling the common cold and then quickly transform into something else. The vaccine schedule in Canada protects us against some of these conditions including measles.

What are some options to recuperate quicker?

  • Keep an eye out for patterns. Identifying your triggers could be as easy as understanding that your throat feels scratchy when you come near your friends' dog, or when the ragweed starts to release its pollen and you step outside. A visit to your local allergist can help isolate exactly which allergens are contributing to your symptoms.
  • Consider supporting your immune system. Clinical trials of Echinaforce have shown it can reduce the duration and severity of the common cold & flu. It is also licensed by Health Canada for both prevention and treatment and can be taken by pregnant and nursing women.
  • Step into nature! In a pilot study out of Taiwan, researchers demonstrated that spending time in nature increased the activity of participants natural killer cells. These cells are responsible for killing cells such as those infected with virus' or that have become cancerous. Not to mention a walk through the woods can also benefit vital factors such as heart rate and even cholesterol. This means less stress on the body, and resources spent on keeping you as healthy as possible.

In addition, take a look at the Infection Prevention and Control Canada site for more information and consider registering with the A.Vogel Cold & Flu Coach program for helpful materials. This week-long program sends tip and tricks straight to your inbox – so register now!