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Is it a Cold, the Stomach Bug or Influenza? Know the Signs, Symptoms and Next Steps if Your Child Falls Ill this Flu Season

Posted on January 24th, 2017

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