Is it the flu or is it a cold?It’s a common question asked by every parent. How can you tell if the symptoms your child is suffering from is because they have the flu or if it’s just a cold?

The chart below may help you figure out which virus is causing the symptoms which will also help you understand how best to make your child comfortable as they ride it out.

We often think of Influenza as “just a mild viral illness”, but the truth is the flu virus causes a number of complications every year, including increased risk of hospitalizations for those younger than 2 years of age. Click here to learn about the Top 10 Flu Myths.

How can we tell the difference between Influenza infection and the common cold? Your doctor can decide by examining the child; there are also Rapid Flu tests that can be performed in the office to confirm suspected cases.

Here are some of the main differences to help you decide if your child’s symptoms are consistent with the flu.

Signs and Symptoms

Flu

Cold

Onset Sudden Gradual
Cough Dry, can be severe Hacking, mild
Headache Prominent Rare
Muscle/joint pain Usual, often severe Slight
Fatigue and weakness Can last up to 2 weeks Very mild
Extreme exhaustion Early and prominent Never
Chest discomfort Common Mild/Moderate
Stuffy nose Sometimes Common
Sneezing Sometimes Usually
Sore throat Sometimes Common
Fever Common, lasts 3-4 days Rare

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual flu immunizations to all Children, both healthy and with high-risk conditions, ages 6 months through 18 years. This year the recommendation includes all school-age children, since this population has the greatest incidence of disease. The goal is to reduce influenza among school-aged children, in order to minimize transmission to household contact and to the community.

There are two vaccines currently available to prevent flu. One is given by injection, and it is made from killed viral particles. The other is a live-attenuated virus vaccine and it is given in a nasal spray form.

Children younger that 9 years, who get the flu vaccine for the first time, should get 2 doses of the vaccine, at least 4-6 weeks apart. Those older than 9 years need only one dose, even if they previously have not received the vaccine.

Our flu vaccines begin arriving in early September and we encourage you to make an appointment to vaccinate your child. In fact, we offer vaccinations for the entire family to help protect all your loved ones from this high-risk illness. Call us at 733-5437 to make an appointment.

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.