Does My Child Have the Flu... or A Cold?
Mid-February is the peak of this year's flu season, medical professionals tell us. And there's still time to get a flu shot if parents and caregivers haven't gotten theirs--but how do you tell in kids if it's the flu or a cold?
According to Pediatrics, Vincent Iannelli, MD, children will experience a quick onset of the flu with a high fever, severe headache, muscle aches and chills, nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, nausea and vomiting. http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/commoninfections/a/flu_treatments.htm
Cold symptoms, however, are usually milder and manifest themselves between 2 and 5 days after exposure to someone who is or has been sick. The symptoms of a cold are typically fever, runny nose, congestion, headache, muscle aches and coughing. Symptoms may get worse between days 3 and 5 and go away between days 10 and 14. So while a cold may last longer than the flu, it may not cause the fatigue, nausea and vomiting of the flu. Some children may have all of these symptoms and some children may only have one or two.
Antibiotics generally do not help a cold or the flu--since they are caused by viruses--and they won't help a child get over a cold sooner or prevent a secondary infection of the sinuses or ears. To soothe colds in kids, caregivers should try using a cool mist humidifier in their room, lots of fluids and bed rest. (And make sure that humidifier is clean, clean, clean!)
Parents should pay special attention, however, to the presence of fevers in children and to the child's temperatures and to how long a fever lasts. If your infant has a fever, call your primary care physician and keep your child hydrated. Recognizing the symptoms of cold and flu in toddlers is very important as active children may become dehydrated quickly, so being observant of their habits, recognizing when they feel good or not is key to healing.
Babies up to six months old are at the greatest risk from complications due to flu as they do not have mature immune systems and they are at risk from respiratory distress due to their small airways. http://www.vicks.com/care-center/treat-relieve/articles/children-cold-symptom-translator/ As a general rule, it is not good to give your infant cold medicine.
Traditionally, doctors have said, that there's really no different way to treat the flu than the way you would treat a serious cold, making your child comfortable and treating the symptoms--but recent improvements to children's medicines are on the horizon with some anti-viral medicines being developed, such as Tamiflu, but antivirals should be evaluated and prescribed for use only by your primary care physician on a case-by-case basis.
ChildSafetyBlog.org likes what About.com.Pediatrics and Vicks.com have to say about treatment of colds in kids!