Although vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu, practicing healthy habits can also lend a hand in prevention. For example, washing your children’s hands and asking them to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing is a good way to avoid spreading germs. Of course it always best to stay away from people who are sick.
Flu vs. Colds
Flu symptoms can vary from child to child – and they can change as the illness progresses. The flu has symptoms that make a child worse than symptoms associated with a common cold. However, it is not that easy to tell the difference between the two. To help decide whether your child is fighting the flu or a cold, ask yourself these questions about your child’s symptoms.
Questions to ask - Is it Flu or is it a Cold?
Was your child's onset of illness Sudden Slow
Does your child have a Fever No (or mild) fever
Is your child's exhaustion level Severe Mild
Is your child's cough Dry Severe or hacking
Is your child's throat Fine Sore
Is your child's head Achy Headache - free
Is your child's appetite Decreased Normal or midly decreased
Are your child's muscles Achy Fine
Does your child have Chills No Chills
What to do if my child has the flu?
Unlike other infections, the flu does not always require treatment. But it is always best to inform your pediatrician since the illness can become complicated if your child is running a fever and/or dehydrated. Doctors may prescribe an antiviral medicine, but in reality, these medicine usually only shorten the course of the infection by just 1 or 2 days-provided your child’s illness is reported at an early stage. Here are a few helpful tips one can do to help your child feel better should he or she come down with the flu.
- Offer plenty of fluids. Try ice pops, icy drinks and soft fruits should your child get tired of drinking water.
- Encourage bed rest.
- Acetaminophens (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofens (such as Advil or Motrin) tend to relieve aches and pains. Do not give aspirin.
- It is important to continue encouraging healthy habits by washing you and your family’s hands thoroughly and often.
- Keep them home from work or school. You will help prevent others from catching their illness.
Common cold symptoms may include sore throat, headache, mild fever, aches and loss of appetite. Unfortunately, no effective cold vaccine has ever been developed, so it is not easy to prevent. But much like the flu, practicing healthy habits can go a long way.
Some people believe that kids may be more vulnerable to colds if they do not eat nutritious meals; they are stressed or tired; if they are exposed to cold, wet weather - but there is little evidence to support many of these beliefs.
Treatment for the common cold is “time.” There isn’t much one can do. However you should contact your pediatrician if there is increased throat pain; coughing which produces green or gray sputum or lasts more than 10 days; fever lasting several days or over 101F; or if the child has shaking chills, chest pain or shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, poor intake of fluids, pain in the ear, unusual lethargy, enlarged, tender glands in the neck, or blue lips, skin or fingernails.