It’s cold and flu season once again! We’re stuck between the two overlapping seasons, and both viruses are running rampant. School attendance rates are plummeting due to the spread of illness, and some have even closed their campuses to help prevent it from spreading. Even so, both viruses are highly contagious. It is likely your child will catch at least one of them sometime in the year. So, how do you know whether your child has the flu or a cold? Here’s a quick guide to help you identify symptoms and find the best course of action.
Know the difference between the flu and cold
The flu and the cold share similar symptoms, so it can be difficult to determine which one your child may have. Both are viral infections that affect the upper respiratory system, but their effects differ slightly. Keep a close eye on your children and track their symptoms.
The flu tends to hit quickly and strongly. The symptoms pile on all at once and generally feel like an amplified version of a cold. People with the flu experience fevers of 101° or higher, have chills, and will often have sore, aching muscles. If your child has a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, dry coughs, nausea, vomiting, and seems lethargic or tired, chances are it’s the flu. This viral infection usually lasts anywhere between 7 to 14 days, and symptoms can linger for much longer. It’s highly contagious and there isn’t anything gradual about it.
Colds like to take their time with their symptoms. Your child may complain about a sore throat one day, then two days later they have a runny nose and a cough. These viral infections cause mild fevers, coughing, sneezing, sore throats, and runny noses. If all these symptoms are present, but your child still has the energy to run and play, it’s most likely just a cold. Colds usually only last for 3 to 10 days.
Treatments for the cold and flu
There is no direct cure, but if your child has come down with a cold, there are a few remedies to help them feel better. First of all, keep them hydrated! Water, natural juice, and warm lemon water with honey are great to prevent dehydration. Make sure they get a lot of rest, make them warm soup, and have a humidifier nearby to help with congestion. To reduce pain, ask your doctor about the appropriate dosage of acetaminophen to give your child.
Remedies for the flu are more or less the same. Make sure your child drinks a lot of water. Avoid any kind of soda or sugary drinks, as they can make sore throats worse. Warm soup, lots of rest, and occasional pain medicine will help make the symptoms more bearable. Your doctor may even prescribe some antiviral medication that could reduce the amount of time needed for recovery.
Even if you’re fairly certain you know which virus may be making your kid sick, it’s still a good idea to contact your doctor. There are several different strains of both the flu and cold, and it can be easy to overlook certain symptoms. Other illnesses also share the same symptoms as these two, such as strep throat or pneumonia. If you have any doubts at all, call your child’s doctor to be sure. This is especially important for higher-risk children. The flu can be dangerous and even deadly to kids with asthma, heart conditions, or weak immune systems.
Stop the flu before it happens
The best way to keep your child from catching any strain of the flu is to have them vaccinated. The vaccine is available for all children over 6 months old and can save your child’s life. The flu can lead to more serious issues further down the road, like pneumonia and encephalitis. The CDC has reported 28 flu-related pediatric deaths over the 2018-19 flu season. Don’t take the risk of leaving your child or yourself unprotected.
Looking for a pediatrician in Amarillo, Tx?
Do you need more information about the flu or vaccination to protect your child? Dr. John Young is an experienced pediatrician that is more than willing to answer any questions you may have. Dr. Young and his friendly staff will do everything they can to keep your child happy and healthy. Call us at (806) 354-0404 ext. 3330 or send us an email to learn more about what we can do for you. You can also visit us in person at 1500 S. Coulter St., Suite #3 in Amarillo, Texas.