“Achoo!” Is it the Cold or the Flu?

As a parent, it can be difficult to determine whether your child is suffering from a cold or the flu. While both illnesses share many similarities, there are some key differences to be aware of.

First, both cold and flu are respiratory illnesses that are caused by viruses. However, there are some differences between the two. Cold symptoms are typically milder than flu symptoms, and they develop more gradually. Flu symptoms, on the other hand, usually appear suddenly and are more severe.

Symptoms of Cold in Children 

The symptoms of a cold in children may include: 

  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Sore throat 
  • Cough 
  • Sneezing 
  • Mild fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache 
  • Body aches 

Symptoms of Flu in Children 

The symptoms of flu in children may include: 

  • High fever (usually over 101°F) 
  • Chills 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Fatigue 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults) 

When to Seek Medical Treatment 

Most cases of cold and flu in children can be treated at home. However, there are some situations in which you should seek medical treatment: 

  • Your child has a high fever (over 103°F). 
  • Your child is having trouble breathing or is breathing rapidly. 
  • Your child is not drinking enough fluids and is becoming dehydrated. 
  • Your child is lethargic and difficult to awaken. 
  • Your child’s symptoms are getting worse instead of better after a few days. 

If you’re unsure whether your child needs medical treatment, it’s always better to error on the side of caution and seek medical advice. 

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Preventing Cold and Flu in Children 

While it’s not always possible to prevent cold and flu in children, there are five simple steps you can take to reduce the risk: 

  • Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. (Singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice will do the trick) 
  • Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing using the inside of their elbow, or a tissue, and not their hands. Keep in mind that sneezing and coughing into a hand will just spread germs on everything they touch from that point forward.  
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Ensure that your child gets plenty of rest and eats a healthy diet, with fruit and vegetables.  
  • Make sure your child is up to date on their vaccinations, including the flu vaccine. 


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