Colds, the Flu, and COVID-19

When you wake up coughing with a runny nose and a fever, it can be hard to know if you have a cold, the flu or COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you navigate your symptoms and recovery.

By Student Wellness Centre

What is a Cold?

A cold is a mild infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). A cold may last a while, but the symptoms remain mild. The cold is caused by a virus that is easily transferred by coughing or sneezing, can travel through the air and then is breathed in by others.

Cold Symptoms




Aches and pains Sometimes, mild
Tiredness and weakness Sometimes, mild
Extreme tiredness Unusual
Runny, stuffy nose Common
Sneezing Common
Sore throat Common
Coughing Sometimes, mild to moderate
Complications Can lead to sinus congestion or earache

How to Treat a Cold

  • Stay home and rest. Even if you are not sleeping, relaxing and resting can allow your body to more quickly recover.

  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water.

  • Soothe a scratchy throat by gargling with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon per glass) several times per day.

  • Eat nutritious foods like soups and fruit.

  • Talk to your health care provider, such as a pharmacist or doctor, about over-the counter drugs that can help and manage your symptoms during the day as well as at nighttime.

What is a Flu?

A flu is not a cold. Seasonal Influenza (flu) is a common infection of the airway and lungs. Like the cold, the flu is caused by a virus that is easily transferred by coughing or sneezing, can travel through the air and then is breathed in by others.

Flu Symptoms

Usual, high fever (39-40 °C- 102-104 °F), sudden onset, lasts 3-4 days


Usual, sometimes severe

Aches and pains Usual, often severe
Tiredness and weakness Usual, may last 2-3 weeks or more
Extreme tiredness Usual, early onset
Runny, stuffy nose Common
Sneezing Sometimes
Sore throat Common
Coughing Usual, sometimes severe
Complications Can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure, worsen a current chronic respiratory condition, and can be life-threatening

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (Coronoavirisu Disease 2019) is a respiratory virus that has caused the pandemic over the past two years.

A rapid antigen test will help to determine if you have the virus or not.


What you need to know:

1.  USask Campus updates and guidelines 

2.  Saskatatchwan updates and quidelines

3.  Government of Canada COVID updates

Self Monitoring

How do I know if I have COVID, a Cold, or the FLU

Symptoms to Monitor

When to See a Health Care Provider

See a Health Care Provider Right Away If You Have

  • Shortness of breath, rapid, or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish or grey skin colour
  • Bloody or coloured mucus/spit
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration (not urinating, dizziness with standing, or dry mouth or eyes)
  • Seizures
  • High fever (over 38.5 °C or 101 °F) lasting more than two or three days
  • Low blood pressure
  • If your symptoms do not get better after a week

Additional Symptoms to Watch for in Children

  • Not drinking enough fluids or eating
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Irritability / not wanting to play or be held

How to Treat a Flu

  • A Flu can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

  • Stay home and rest, allow your body to more quickly recover. Do not go back to work until you no longer have had a fever for 24 hours, without any fever-reducing medication.

  • Drink lots of Fluids, especially water.

  • Talk to your health care provider, such as pharmacist and doctor, about drugs that can help your manage your symptoms.

Did You Know

  • Antibiotics do not work on viral infections like colds and flus!
  • Children and those over 65 are at high risk of serious complications (like pneumonia) from the flu.
  • The annual flu vaccine is the safest, longest lasting, and most effective way to prevent the flu.
  • Each year there is a new vaccine to protect against the expected flu virus strains of the coming flu season. Getting the flu vaccine every year maximizes protection as its duration may not span two influenza seasons.
  • In Saskatchewan you can call the HealthLine (8-1-1) for professional health advice anytime.
  • To learn more about flu symptoms, treatment, and prevention visit Government of Canada.

Over-the-counter Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription. OTC medications help to relieve the symptoms of the common cold, but they will not cure you. Make sure you read the labels carefully and know what you are taking! Many OTC medications contain a combination of active ingredients so make sure you are not double dosing.

Pain killers and fever reducers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, will help to ease your aches, sore throat, and to reduce your fever. The use of A.S.A. (acetylsalicylic acid), e.g., Aspirin®, for a fever is not recommended for children, teens, and young adults.

Zinc is the most beneficial to help with your dry irritating cough.

Saline nasal sprays can also open breathing passages and may be used freely.

Decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine can help your stuffed-up nose, plugged ears, and sinus pressure. Oral medications and nasal sprays are available. Remember, it is important to only use nasal sprays for a few days.

Expectorants that contains guaifenesin, may help the elimination of phlegm that can be associated with a common cold.

Note: If you have any chronic illness such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, enlarged prostate, and glaucoma, if you think you could be pregnant, or are taking any drugs (including herbal remedies), speak to the pharmacist first before purchasing any of these medications.

Prevent Getting or Spreading Cold, Flu, or COVID Viruses

  • Get a flu and COVID vaccine each year for everyone over six months of age.

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If it is not possible to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.

  • Sneeze and cough into your arm, not your hand.

  • Keep your hands away from your face.

  • Keep common surface areas clean and disinfected. Regularly clean items like doorknobs, remotes, and other items that are used by multiple people.

  • Keep your immune system stronger with enough sleep (at least seven hours per night) and healthy eating.

  • If you get sick, stay home and limit your contact with others.

  • Be a role model to your friends and family. Teach them how they can stop the spread of the cold and flu.

  • If you are sick, wear a mask around individuals that are immunocompromised.

  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water.

If you have COVID -19

Best practices and Isolation Tips

  • Stay and sleep in a room with good airflow away from others if possible
  • Use a separate bathroom if you can
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Wash your hands right away after you sneeze, cough, or touch used tissues or masks
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Flush the toilet with the lid down. COVID-19 may be present in stool. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect common areas once a day. Clean surfaces in the rooms that you are staying in with regular cleaning products. Then disinfect by mixing one part bleach with nine parts water and apply to areas that are touched (counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables). It is especially important to use bleach to disinfect if you are sharing any common areas.

How to wear a Mask Correctly

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  2. Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  3. Avoid touching the mask or your face when in place; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  4. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  5. If you are using a reusable mask, make sure you store dirty masks away from other clothing, it is best if you can wash it immediately after use in hot water. A reusable mask should be washed after each use.
  6. To remove the mask: remove it from the back (do not touch the front of mask, eyes, mouth or nose); discard immediately into garbage bin or washing machine; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.


Effective Handwashing

Handwashing throughout the day is important, but even more important during an outbreak like COVID-19. Always remember to wash your hands in these situations:

  • After returning from a public outing (grocery store, work, school, concert, sporting activity, hospital, nursing home, etc.).
  • Before leaving the bathroom — both at home and in public bathrooms.
  • After shaking hands during flu season and virus outbreaks.
  • Before, during, and after preparing food, especially raw food.
  • Before eating food.
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste.
  • After handling pet food or pet treats.
  • After touching garbage.
  • After putting on your shoes.
  • After using public computers, touching public tables and countertops, cash and coins, other people’s phones, etc.

Chicken Noodle Soup "For the Body"


  • 5-6 cups homemade chicken stock; or 2 cans chicken broth plus 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 2 cups fine egg noodles
  • 1 cup diced, cooked chicken (skinless)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


  1. Place first five ingredients in a 4 quart saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until vegetables are tender. 
  3. Add chicken. 
  4. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Adjust to taste. 
  6. Cook until chicken is heated through. 
  7. The next time you get a cold, try our chicken noodle soup recipe.  If you like it, pass it on to a friend (the recipe, not the cold).