Symptoms of a Cold Versus the Flu

Influenza is the reason for more hospitalizations among young children than any other vaccine-preventable disease with approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 hospitalized every year. Because the flu can be cause for medical concern for children, it is important to be aware of your child’s symptoms to determine whether it’s just a cold or the flu.

Common Symptoms of a Cold:

  • Gradual onset
  • Mild tiredness
  • Mild to moderate cough
  • Low or no fever
  • Sore throat
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache-free
  • No chills
  • No muscle aches

Common Symptoms of the Flu:

  • Rapid onset
  • Higher fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Severe tiredness
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Chills

Children may be especially suceptable to severe complications with the flu, so if your child is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, it is best to consult your pediatrician right away. Over the counter medications may be recommended to ease some flu symptoms, but one of the best things to do is keep your child home and make sure she gets plenty of rest. The flu is contagious, so ask your child to cover her nose and mouth when coughing, wash her hands frequently and avoid touching her eyes, nose and mouth. At home, you should also make sure that all dishes, utensils and frequently touched surfaces are washed thoroughly.

To help prevent the onset of influenza, a flu vaccination is recommended for all children aged 6 months and older. Flu vaccinations are offered in many locations including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and pharmacies. If your child is vaccinated and still gets sick with the flu, the vaccination may help to make the symptoms of the illness milder.

This article was reviewed by Mel Hendrickson and Kelsey Rinzel, Registered Nurses at Penfield Children’s Center

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