Is it a Cold, the Stomach Bug or Influenza? Know the Signs, Symptoms and Next Steps if Your Child Falls Ill this Flu Season
Runny noses and stuffy noses. Coughing and sneezing. Upset tummies, sore throats, fevers and fatigue. The common cold, the stomach bug and influenza are three very different illnesses that often start out looking very much the same. If your child wakes up feeling unwell or is sent home from school with a cough, sore throat, fever or congestion, how can you tell if it’s just a bug that’s going around—or something more serious? Go through our checklist below and schedule a chat with your child’s healthcare provider!
Does my child have a cold or the flu? The common cold and influenza are both caused by viruses and can look very much the same at first—and it’s so important to know the difference. Both viruses affect your child’s breathing system but colds usually clear up over time and very rarely cause complications. The flu is a bigger cause for concern (especially for children with chronic illnesses, infants and babies) and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Take a look at the symptom chart below to find the most likely culprit for your child’s illness:
|THE FLU||A COLD|
|Did your child get sick:||quickly||slowly|
|Is your child’s fever:||high||mild or nonexistant|
|Does your child have chills?||yes||no|
|Are your child’s head and muscles:||aching||just fine|
|Is your child’s energy level:||exhausted||a little tired|
|Is your child’s appetite:||gone||normal|
I think my child has a cold. What should I do? There is no vaccine that can prevent the common cold and no medicine that can cure it. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatments to reduce fever or congestion, but children with colds need plenty of fluids and lots of rest to get back to feeling their best. (Asking your child’s doctor for antibiotics to treat a common cold can be harmful, not helpful.) A cold usually should run its course in three to ten days. To keep your child from spreading their cold to other members of the family or their friends, encourage frequent hand-washing, remind them to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow, and keep them home until their symptoms clear up. Continue reading
Maine parents might have read about Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a severe respiratory illness that has sent hundreds of children to the hospital since it was first reported in the Midwest this August. Cases of EV-D68 have now been reported in Maine, as well as in Connecticut and New York. With schools back in session, officials expect this fast-moving virus to keep spreading. Maine parents—especially parents of children with asthma—should know what EV-D68 is, what symptoms to look for and what precautions to take to keep Maine children healthy.
What is enterovirus D68?
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a non-polio enterovirus. This name might sound scary, but this type of virus is very common. In fact, enteroviruses infect 10 to 15 million people every year without serious consequences. Officials believe the current outbreak of EV-D68 is a strain that hasn’t been around since the 1960s and it appears to be most dangerous for babies, children and teens, especially if they have asthma.
Even if you and your family get your yearly flu shot, you may still get sick this winter. There is no vaccine for colds (we wish!) and no vaccine that works on every single type of the flu. Despite what some products may claim, there’s no cure for a cold or the flu either. But even if you have to let nature take its course, there are safe and natural ways to help everyone feel better … and maybe even get better a little bit faster!
1. Drink Lots of Fluids
Your body fights viruses and germs by using antibodies in your blood. To keep your immune system running at top speed, try to drink 8 big glasses of fluid a day. Water is your best bet, but you have lots of choices! Bubbly drinks like sugar-free ginger ale or seltzer water can soothe a sore throat. Hot herbal teas can also help clear a stuffy nose—and a bit of honey adds sweetness and an immunity boost (just don’t feed honey to children under 1!). Little ones can have a hard time drinking enough fluid to keep them hydrated when they are sick. Try offering drinks like Pedialyte that have electrolytes to help get all those important vitamins and nutrients into their bodies.
2. Don’t Fight All Your Symptoms
A fever: This is your body heating up to force out and get rid of—nasty viruses.
Coughing: Helps clear your lungs of germy mucus.
A runny nose: Pushes germs out and away from your body.
Many over-the-counter medicines hide your symptoms and may make you feel or sound better, but can really slow down your healing process. If you are just a little sick, try waiting a couple of days before taking any medicine.
If your symptoms don’t start to get better after a couple days, call your doctor. What you think is just a cold or flu could be the earlier stages of a more dangerous illness.
Remember that even a low grade or small fever can be dangerous for infants and babies. The Mayo Clinic has great guidelines that let you know when a fever is high enough to call your child’s doctor or your own doctor.
3. Stay Warm and Steamy
Maine winters are long and cold. Home heating systems suck a lot of moisture out of the air, drying out noses and throats. Outside, dry and cold air can dehydrate you just as quickly as a hot summer’s day! Run a humidifier in your child’s room to soothe a sore throat or a stuffy nose. Take a long, hot shower or bath, and breathe in lots of steam to loosen mucus in your nose and chest. Much like drinking lots of fluids, warmth and humidity can really help your body fight infections faster and better.
4. Get Lots of Rest
It’s stressful to miss work and it’s hard to miss school. But, while putting up with some of your symptoms can speed up your return to good health, trying to get by with no rest will do just the opposite. Take it easy! Extra naps and early bedtimes can often lead to brighter, healthier mornings. Build blanket forts to make a nap feel like an adventure. Sleeping with an extra pillow can help everyone breathe better while they sleep.
5. Eat Good Foods to Help you Feel Better
Settle upset tummies with bananas, rice or applesauce. Blueberries fight diarrhea and can also help with pain and fevers. Eating eye-watering foods like hot peppers, onions, mustard and horseradish break up mucus in your lungs and clear your airways. It’s harder to eat healthy when you aren’t feeling your best, but getting over a cold or the flu starts from the inside out. And, if you are trying to keep a cold or flu from spreading in your family, try serving everyone one of our five favorite immunity-boosting snacks that kids love!
FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Fighting off colds and the flu with some simple steps.
TALK ABOUT … How the best remedy against the flu is getting a flu shot every year. If you haven’t received your flu vaccine, here are three places in Maine to get your flu shot.
Photo credit: by rhinman