Achoo! Cold and flu season is almost here

Start with the symptoms your child shows, and learn how to tell the difference

A little girl lies in bed with a thermometer in her mouth.

Cold and flu season are just around the corner. A common question parents ask is, “Is this a cold or the flu?”

Cold or flu?

Pay attention to the symptoms your child shows.  Monitor your child for a few days and document whether or not your child’s condition is getting worse. If it’s getting worse, what you thought was a cold may actually be influenza.

  • The onset. Sudden onset is associated with influenza.  If the illness came on slow, it may be a common cold.
  • Fever. Flu often brings a high fever, whereas a cold may produce a mild fever or no fever.
  • Fatigue. A cold can cause mild exhaustion. The flu may cause severe exhaustion.
  • Body aches. A common cold doesn’t usually come with body aches. The flu may cause your child to feel achy all over.

Meet Mr. Flu

In the U.S., flu season runs from October to May.

  1. Flu symptoms usually begin about two days after exposure to the virus. Other symptoms include: loss of appetite, cough, sore throat, nausea, weakness, ear pain and diarrhea.
  2. Flu symptoms can last about five days and should be gone within a week or two. It’s important to take influenza seriously as it can lead to pneumonia or other life-threatening complications. The flu is contagious. It’s spread by droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air.
  3. The flu vaccine is recommended every year for everyone 6 months old and older. The vaccine isn’t a guarantee against getting the flu, but it may result in fewer or milder flu symptoms.

Say hello to Mr. Cold

Kids can get eight or more colds per year! Many symptoms of colds are similar to the flu.

  1. Additional symptoms include: itchy throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and nausea.
  2. Colds are contagious and are spread by a sneeze or cough or touching a contaminated surface. Cold symptoms show up within 2-3 days after exposure to the virus and can last up to two weeks.

Prevent the spread

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water, especially before and after eating, using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing.
  • Use a clean tissue to pick up used tissues and never share cups or eating utensils.
  • Keep your child home from school or day care when sick with the flu.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If needed, cough or sneeze into your upper arm, not your hands. Teach your child this technique.

If you have further questions or concerns, contact your child’s physician.

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Posted In Children's, Flu, Parenting

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