• Dr. Heather Robinson, ND

How to Beat the Cold + Flu, Naturally: Cold Vs. Flu

Well, it's that time of year. People are sneezing, coughing, achey, and just generally sick with something. So we figured we would bring you a couple of blog posts to help you get through the cold and flu season - and all future seasons - as healthy as possible!

This week, I'll be diving into what the difference is between the cold and the flu and just give you a little background on what's going in on your body.

Both the cold and flu are viruses. This means that going to your doctor for antibiotics isn't going to do anything. Viruses are most often self-resolving, so if you rest (REST, PEOPLE!), your own immune system will take care of it in a week or two. Now, what can happen sometimes is a secondary bacterial infection. You know when you've had a cold for a week or so and it seems to be improving and then all of a sudden, BAM! You get what seems to be a second wind of illness and come down with a sinus infection or upper respiratory tract infection? Well that is bacterial and antimicrobial herbs or antibiotics may be warranted at that point. While your body had been fighting the virus (in the form of cold/flu), your immune system was busy at work and therefore more vulnerable to getting that secondary bacterial infection. It is important to know this because the over-prescription of antibiotics can wreak havoc on gut health which we know means they wreak havoc on the rest of the body. So, save them for the bacterial infections.

Here are some ways to know the difference between cold and flu and if it's gone bacterial:


•Peaks at 2-3 days post-infections lasting 7-10 days

•No fever

•Runny nose, congestion, cough, fatigue



•Contagious from contracting until up to 2 weeks after.


•Peaks at 2-3 days post-infections lasting 7-14 days


•Muscle aches, runny nose, fatigue, cough *


•Influenza virus

•Contagious from moment of contracting until 7 days

* The combination of a fever and a cough has 70% predictive power that it's the flu.

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the fever, the more likely it's bacterial. So if fever spikes after days of being ill without a fever, there is a chance it has gone to a secondary bacterial infection and you should see your health care practitioner.

Note that for both the cold and flu, the contagious period begins and ends likely after symptoms have come and gone. Essentially, be mindful of hygiene. Use SOAP and WATER to wash your hands (rather than hand sanitizer).

If you are getting sick frequently or when you do, it lasts longer than the expected time periods above, chat with a Naturopathic Doctor about how to support your immune system.

Stay safe and healthy! x


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Disclaimer: Any information on this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice.

Always seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner with any questions or health concerns you may have.


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