How do I know if I have a cold or a flu?

2017 Flu news

People may still be at risk even if they’ve had a flu shot.

Influenza (or ‘flu’) is typically caused by either the influenza A or influenza B viruses.[1] The strain that’s causing the most flu infections this year is an ‘A’ strain H3N2. This strain causes more severe disease, especially among older persons and the very young. While all forms of this year’s flu vaccine contain H3N2, unfortunately, vaccines as a whole tend not to work as well against this particular strain (only reducing the likelihood of contracting this particular flu by an average of 33%). [2] People may still be at risk even if they’ve had a flu shot; prioritising the need to actively support their immune health this winter.

Is it Cold or Flu?

Winter is a season during which many patients experience an increased risk and incidence of viral infections such as colds and flu. Both of these (but perhaps flu most of all) can hit hard and fast, leaving patients off work and potentially out of pocket, or perhaps worse – ‘soldiering on’ and spreading their viral load amongst the weak and/or unsuspecting community. Conventional medicine has little to offer in the war against these viral threats other than an annual flu vaccine – with only limited efficacy against some viruses and none against others. In addition, it is the nature of these viruses to continually mutate, so even the newest vaccine may miss the mark. So with over 200 viruses causing influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI), and all producing debilitating symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, rhinorrhoea, aches and pains – it may be up to you to help your patients understand how to support themselves in what is an annual threat to the system.

With more than 200 different viruses causing the common cold,[3] and yet many patients claiming to have the flu, how do you tell which is which? The common cold has a gradual onset, with a typical symptom picture that includes a sore throat and nasal congestion. In contrast, flu has a sudden onset, accompanied by fever and muscle aches.[4] However, absence of fever, especially in the elderly and immunosuppressed, does not necessarily rule out influenza.[5]

It is very important to differentiate between viral, bacterial or any other infection. Then we match patients’ pathological presentation with the best antiviral or other antimicrobial herbs proven in the clinical trials.

The Body Knows Best

What everyone needs is a robust and resilient immune system, capable of responding to what is an ever-evolving viral challenge. A healthy immune system can identify an invading virus, isolate it by shutting down intercellular communication, and activate both cellular (e.g. T-lymphocytes, natural killer cells) and humoral (e.g. B-cells, antibodies) defences against that invader. Unfortunately, as you’d know from clinical experience, not everyone’s immune system is as healthy as it could be; the reality being that many patients need an immune ‘boost’. For acute infections, treatment is aimed at enhancing the body’s immediate response; and to help prevent infections taking hold in the first place, the strategy is to promote patients’ long term immune defenses to the rescue in the war against the common cold.

If you would like to know more about how the DH-Natural Medicine Clinic can help you,  please call us now on (02) 4854 0205.

Danuta Hulajko is a holistic practitioner, international speaker and the founder & practitioner at the DH Natural Medicine Clinic and in Southern  Highlands, NSW.

Danuta specialises in Allergies, Anti-Aging, Auto-Immune Conditions, Cardiovascular Conditions, Female Reproductive, Menopause, Mould Toxicity, Skin Conditions, Stress and Insomnia and Thyroid Dysfunction.

For more information please go to our website. You can also follow Danuta Hulajko’s work, events, seminars, expos, latest health research, her health tips and advice on FacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.


  1. Prevention and control of influenza: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Online]. 2008. Available from: [Cited 25/05/17].
  2. Goodman, B. CDC: Flu season has started, could be severe. WebMD. [Online]. 2017. [Cited 25/05/17].
  3. Upper respiratory tract infection comparison chart. Ah-choo! Is it a cold, hay fever, sinusitis or the flu? Asthma Society of Canada. [Online]. 2012. Available from: [Cited 25/05/17].
  4. Upper respiratory tract infection comparison chart. Ah-choo! Is it a cold, hay fever, sinusitis or the flu? Asthma Society of Canada. [Online]. 2012. Available from: [Cited 25/05/17].
  5. Healthcare workers handbook on influenza. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases. [Online]. 2011. Available from: [Cited 25/05/17].
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  8. Sheeja K, Kuttan G. Modulation of natural killer cell activity, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, and antibody dependent complement-mediated cytotoxicity by andrographolide in normal and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma-bearing mice. Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Mar;6(1):66-73.
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  10. Sharma ML, Rao CS, Duda PL. Immunostimulatory activity of Picrorhiza kurroa leaf extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Feb;41(3):185-92.
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  12. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361-369.
  13. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32:132-140.
  14. Xu Z, Chen X, Zhong Z, et al. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides: immunomodulation and potential anti-tumour activities. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(1):15-27.
  15. Chu K, Ho S, Chow A. Coriolus versicolor: A medicinal mushroom with promising immunotherapeutic values. J Clin Pharmacol. 2002;42;976-984.
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  17. Kidd PM. The use of mushroom glucans and proteoglycans in cancer treatment. Alt Med Rev. 2000;5(1):21. Adapted from Chihara G, Hamuro J, Maeda YY, et al. Antitumor and metastasis-inhibitory activities of lentinan as an immunomodulator: an overview. Cancer Detect Prev Suppl. 1987;1:423-443.
  18. David, S. Managing pain and fever associated with colds and flu. S Afr Pharm J. 2013;80(3):8-14.

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