It’s Cold and Flu Season!
You pick your child up from daycare and his teacher tells you he’s been clingy and crying over little things all day. By dinner time, he’s getting the sniffles, doesn’t want to eat (even though you made his favorite!), and his temperature is rising. Is it a cold, or is it the flu? During this cold and flu season, it’s important to know the difference between a cold and flu and what to do for each. We’ll also tell you how you can prevent both.
The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. Symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, and/or sore throat. Your child may develop a fever and have some muscle aches and chills, but these aren’t as common in colds as they are in the flu.
The flu in children may appear to be similar to a cold as they do share many symptoms, but generally the symptoms tend to be more intense and come on more suddenly with the flu. Also, a flu is often accompanied by a fever, while a cold is less likely to produce a fever. One symptom that is common in colds but not in the flu is coughing. So, if your child has a cough, odds are that she has a cold. In addition, she may be achy, have the chills, and have decreased energy and appetite.
How to prevent the cold and flu
Contrary to what your mom told you, you will not get sick by going out without a coat on in the winter! What does cause both is a virus. Make sure your child washes his hands often, especially while out and about at places like school or the mall where large groups of people can easily spread germs to one another. Now, especially if you have a child in school, it may be inevitable that your child catches one or the other. However, the best preventative measure for the flu is to get the flu vaccine.
How to help your child if they do get sick
Both the cold and flu are viral infections, meaning they can’t be helped by antibiotics. And, while there are medications to help and a flu vaccine to prevent, there is currently no cure for either. What your child needs most is rest and relaxation, along with a good dose of love and care (and some extra screen time doesn’t hurt!). Ask your doctor about medications that are safe for your child. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help bring down a high fever and help with aches and pains. Cough medicine for kids is no longer recommended or advised for children under 6, as it has been shown to be more harmful than helpful.
When to have your child seen
The flu tends to be worse in children under the age of 5 as well as those who are immunocompromised or have asthma, so have your child checked out if any of these apply. There is medication that can help shorten the duration and severity of the flu, but it needs to be given within 48 hours of symptoms arriving. Also, bring your child in to be seen if her symptoms seem to be worsening by day 3, if her fever gets very high, if she has shortness of breath, or simply if you as a parent feel like something is not right!
So, this cold and flu season make sure you take preventative measures to ward off the cold and flu. If your child does catch either, know that the majority of the time these illnesses just need to run their course and go away within a few days. Keep your child home from school, give some pain relievers if needed, and allow him to rest. The jury is out on chicken soup, but we think the love that goes into making it may help, and the warmth certainly feels good for a sore throat! And we hope you don’t have to, but know that MVP Pediatric is here for you, if you need to have your child checked out.
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