Simple cold, COVID or flu?

Winter is approaching, you have a little fever and you have started to cough. Here’s a guide to differentiating the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and a common cold.

COVID-19 and influenza may have symptoms in common, but they are caused by different viruses: SARS ‑ CoV ‑ 2 in the case of COVID and Influenza type A, B or C in the case of influenza.

On the other hand, the common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract such as the nose, throat and nasal passages. It can be caused by over a hundred varieties of different viruses.


The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Loss of taste and smell is also a fairly common symptom, as is fatigue.

Muscle aches and pains, runny nose, diarrhea and headache are more occasional symptoms, while nasal congestion and sneezing are rare or absent.


Fever, cough, and fatigue are also common symptoms of influenza. The fever can rise to 39 or 40 degrees Celsius.

This intense fever is accompanied by chills, diarrhea, body aches and headaches, but almost never loss of taste or smell or breathing difficulties, unique to COVID-19.

Since the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are quite similar, experts recommend that you don’t hesitate to get tested if you are confused.


Nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat, rare for COVID-19 and the flu, are common with colds. The latter can also be accompanied by sneezing and coughing, but a fatty rather than a dry cough.

The common cold can cause fever and fatigue, but it is milder and less persistent than with the flu or COVID. Aches are also common.

COVID-19, not just the flu

Some symptoms of COVID-19 are common with the flu, but there is no vaccine yet to prevent COVID-19, which is much more deadly than influenza.

According to the latest data from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, COVID-19 has killed 6,557 people in just under eight months.

In comparison, the flu killed an average of nearly 400 people per year between 2012 and 2016.

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