Without fail, the cold and flu reason rolls around like clockwork. Some seasons are mild and some are not so mild. Being sick is never a fun thing to experience – especially when you’re a child.
It’s not always easy to determine if your child has a cold or the flu because the flu can mimic a cold when it first begins. The first step is to always get your child a flu shot before the season hits so that he’ll have that protection.
But if for some reason, he does become ill, there are several symptoms that can make it easier to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. With a cold, a child will usually get a sore throat with a runny nose and cough – and they may or may not have a fever.
With the flu, it hits fast and hard with a similar sore throat and cough, but the key difference is that flu brings with it muscle aches, fatigue and a higher fever. Signs of high fever that parents will want to watch out for are lethargy, chills, faster breathing, headaches and in some cases, hallucinations.
Usually when a child is ill and his symptoms are mild, he can be cared for at home. However, there are warning signs that indicate it’s time to take him to the doctor. Some of these warning signs are cold associated with ear pain (because it could indicate there’s an ear infection, which can easily occur with a cold).
A sinus headache, a fever that won’t go away or is higher than 101, chest pain, trouble breathing or raspy breath are all symptoms that should be evaluated. If your child is vomiting and unable to keep food or liquid down, he can be at risk of dehydration and should be seen.
There’s a checklist you can use to help care for your child when he’s sick with a cold or flu. If a fever is present, allow him to take a lukewarm bath. If your child has a fever, never put them in a cold bath. While fevers do help the body kill the germs causing the illness, it can make a child feel pretty miserable, so use a fever lowering drug like acetaminophen.
If he has a cough, especially one that’s interrupting his sleep, you can use a cough suppressant – but only if it’s age appropriate. Push as much fluids as your child will tolerate in the form of water, Jell-O, or Popsicles. Also make sure he has some chicken soup, because it’ll help him stay hydrated and chicken soup does have anti-inflammatory properties.