Think your child has the flu? Visit our Pediatrician’s office in Glen Carbon, IL for an analysis and treatment. We also offer flu vaccines to help your family stay well!
Your child is complaining of the runny nose, the congestion, the phlegm, the cough. But is it the dreaded flu or just a common cold? Should they go to daycare or school? Should you make an appointment with a doctor? Although the cold and flu may share many of the same symptoms, it’s important to understand the differences so you can make informed decisions for your child to get them back on track to health.
One way to distinguish whether a child has the flu, or a cold is to consider when and how quickly it arrived. People can catch a cold any time throughout the year, while the flu tends to have only a few strains and distinct seasons. If your child has gradually been getting sicker little by little over a few days, then it’s likely to be a cold. The flu, on the other hand, often comes on suddenly and without warning. If your child seemed perfectly fine last night but feels like death when they wake up a few hours later, it may be the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cold symptoms are generally milder than the flu, and while it’s possible to experience a low-grade fever with a cold, it’s unlikely. On the other hand, the flu almost always begins with a high fever spike. If most of your child’s symptoms are in his or her head — a runny nose, congestion, sore throat, sinus pressure – it’s a sign that you’ve got a cold on your hands. The flu, however, tends to manifest itself throughout the body- including muscle aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, and dry cough are more common, although you can expect a sore throat and runny nose with the flu as well.
Generally, it has been found that cold symptoms are less severe than flu symptoms. That is not to say that a cold is a walk in the park; they can be a formidable force for child or adult. Additionally, the common cold luckily does not lead to more serious health complications, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, like the flu. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends seeing a doctor if your child is under the age of 5 (and particularly under the age of 2), or if you or your child fall into a group with a high risk for complications, including pregnant women, diabetics and asthmatics, and those over 65 years old.
The good news is this: whether you have a cold or the flu, the recommended treatment is the same — you guessed it, plenty of fluids and rest. Over-the-counter medications such as decongestants, cough medicines, and pain relievers can also help to alleviate the symptoms for both conditions. But more than anything, it just takes time. Take plenty of it and avoid the risk of passing it along to someone else.
(It is IMPORTANT to note that unless you have been tested and diagnosed with some sort of bacterial infection, all the antibiotics in the world will not help you with either the cold or the flu. The common cold and flu are both viruses, which means they do not respond to antibiotics (which are meant to kill bacteria, not viruses). If you take antibiotics for a cold or flu, the antibiotics may potentially not work as well in the future when you need them—this is called antibiotic resistance.)
Different timing, symptoms, and severity can provide you clues as to whether you have the flu or a common cold. While they may look similar at first, it is important to be able to distinguish the flu and a cold, particularly for those at high risk for flu complications. It’s always shocking to many people when they learn that nearly 80,000 deaths are caused each year by complications with the flu. And it’s not just the sick and elderly — the 2017-2018 regular flu season saw the highest number of pediatric deaths from the flu in the past five years: 186 pediatric deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Protect Your Child from the Flu Virus
When you have a child, it’s not “just the flu” — it is something to take seriously by keeping your child at home and minimizing contact with others to avoid spreading the illness. Teaching your child to properly wash their hands and cover their mouths is vital and getting an annual flu shot is recommended by the CDC for any child over the age of 6 months.
Want to make sure your child is protected? Come in and see one of our pediatricians for a flu vaccination, or contact us to make an appointment at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics, where we offer premier pediatric care including in-office tests for the flu, strep throat, tuberculosis, and all recommended immunizations.