Cold and flu season is officially here, and it can be a scary time for parents. Most have read shocking news reports about children getting seriously ill and sometimes even dying from the flu so they don't take any chances when their child shows those first signs of an illness.
It's often difficult as a parent to know when their child simply has a case of the common cold, or something more serious. While you should always consult a doctor if you're concerned about your child, there are some things you can look for to see if you child simply has a bad case of the sniffles or if you should be more concerned.
While both colds and the flu are caused by viruses, colds can be caused by a variety of viruses while the flu is caused by a variety of strains of the influenza virus. The beginning symptoms of a cold and the flu can often be similar. You may notice your child developing a cough or sore throat, and they may have a stuffy nose. The coughing/sneezing/runny nose symptoms normally last anywhere from just three days to ten days, Children's Health reports, and tend to be more annoying than serious.
When a child comes down with the flu the initial symptoms are similar to that of the common cold, only then tend to be more severe and rapid in their development. In addition to a sore throat your child may also develop a headache and muscle ache, as well as a general feeling of being tired and weak. Chills aren't uncommon when it comes to the flu as well.
Your child may complain of sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, weakness and feeling tired. Fevers may be high and your child may experience chills. Most people get better in a few days to 2 weeks. Dr. Tania Elliott, an allergist and immunologist spoke to Buzzfeed about how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. “A cold will come on gradually. You may have some aches and congestion, but you’re still going to work...with the flu, it’s like you’re hit by a bus.”
She also explained that flu symptoms come on so quickly that they're often hard to ignore. “Your immune system is kicked into overdrive because the flu is a super-virus, so to speak.”
We know that there is no cure for the common cold, but you can help make your child more comfortable by giving them lots of fluids and ensuring they're well rested and hopefully the cold will run its course in about a week. If you suspect your child has the flu Children's Health recommends keeping them out of school and again keeping them fully hydrated and rested, and there is medication if caught soon enough.
“If you seek treatment within the first 48 hours of [developing] symptoms, you can be prescribed Tamiflu or the new antiviral (Xofluza), which can lessen the severity and duration of symptoms,” Elliott told Buzzfeed. If you think your child is not getting better you should definitely consult a doctor for professional advice.
Getting the flu shot every year, teaching your children to wash their hands often as well as to sneeze in to their arm instead of hands are all ways for your kids to try to stay healthy this cold and flu season.