Cold Vs. Flu
Is it a cold or the flu? When it comes to your child's health, your pediatrician provides great information and guidance on the most common illnesses plaguing families. If you are wondering about the exact nature of your child's illness and how to treat it, learn the differences between a cold and the flu and how to treat and prevent them.
What is a cold?
A cold is an upper respiratory viral infection lasting 5 to 7 days in both adults and children alike. Generally milder in intensity and shorter in duration than influenza, a cold causes:
- Watery eyes
- A runny nose
- Low-grade fever
The Centers for Disease Control states that most healthy children experience 8 to 10 colds by the age of two years.
What is the flu?
The flu is a much more serious viral infection. Of sudden and intense onset, the flu usually comes with:
- High fever
- Body aches
- Extreme tiredness
- Severe headache
Also, the flu lasts longer and debilitates sufferers. It carries dangerous complications, particularly with young children, the elderly, asthmatics, diabetics and those with weak immune systems.
Treating colds and the flu
Treating a cold involves rest, fluids and decongestants as needed. The onset of a cold is gradual, and so is recovery. Typically, your child will not need to visit the pediatrician if he or she has a simple cold. Simple symptom relief works well. However, high and persistent fever merits a call to your child's doctor.
Regarding the flu, your pediatrician may do an in-office Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test (a throat or nasal swab) to confirm the diagnosis. They may prescribe antiviral medication and instruct on how to monitor a young child's symptoms. Keep your youngster well-hydrated, and administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed.
If flu symptoms escalate (labored respirations, severe headache, rapid heart rate or anything that seems unusual to you), take your child to the nearest hospital ER for evaluation. Pneumonia is a frequent and life-threatening complication of influenza.
Prevention is the best medicine
Protect all members of the family with these simple measures:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Avoid crowds during peak cold and flu season.
- Keep your child home from daycare and school if he or she is sick.
- Teach your child to cover his or her mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Don't share food or utensils, even with family members.
- Vaccinate against the flu. Ask your pediatrician for your child's "shot."
Trust your pediatrician
They work hard to prevent acute illnesses such as colds and the flu. The doctor and professional team are great resources for prevention, healing and overall well-being for your children.