Cold and Flu Guide

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 09:03 pm

Cold and flu season is once again upon us. When kids get sick during this time of year, many how-to-prevent-the-flu-4parents aren’t sure how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, and at what point they should take their child to the doctor. Cold and flu symptoms can be similar and confusing. The rapidly spreading 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is also a growing concern for parents. Using the guide below can help you determine whether your little one needs symptomatic treatment at home, or whether it is time to seek a doctor’s help.

Winter colds:

  • Cold symptoms may include: Stuffy nose, sneezing, cough/chest discomfort (mild to moderate; hacking cough), mild to moderate sore throat, mild aches and pains, mild fatigue.
  • Complications from a cold can include: Sinus infection and/or ear infection, lower respiratory infection such as bronchitis.
  • Prevention of a cold: Thorough hand-washing and avoiding contact with others who have colds as much as possible. Disinfect toys if a sick child has played with them. Disinfect household surfaces and doorknobs.
  • Treatment for a cold: Treat symptomatically with clear liquids, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and get plenty of rest. For young children, ask your doctor’s advice before giving OTC medications. Never give more than one medication containing acetaminophen (Tylenol) See your doctor if symptoms worsen or if they are not getting better after a week.

Seasonal Flu and 2009 H1N1 Influenza

  • Flu symptoms may include: High fever (102 to 104), headache (may be severe), aches and pains (moderate to severe), extreme exhaustion (early on in the illness and prominent), fatigue and weakness (can last up to 2-3 weeks), cough/chest discomfort (can become severe). May have stuffy nose, sore throat, and/or sneezing.
  • Complications from the flu can include: Bronchitis and/or pneumonia, which may require hospitalization.
  • Prevention of the flu: Same as for colds. In addition, an annual flu shot or flu mist, upon your doctor’s recommendation. Anti-viral drugs may be prescribed if you have been exposed to the flu.
  • Treatment for the flu: If you suspect that you or a family member has the flu, contact your doctor right away. He or she can tell you whether an office visit is necessary, based on symptoms and previous health history. For any child who has an underlying health condition (especially asthma or other respiratory problem), an office visit is in order, as soon as possible, or go to the emergency room if it is after office hours. Influenza is a serious illness and requires monitoring for complications. If necessary, Amantadine or rimantadine (anti-viral drugs) should be started within the first 24-48 hours after onset of symptoms. Follow your doctor’s advice for treatment of symptoms.

If your child has any signs of respiratory distress (trouble breathing) such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Labored breathing (watch for retractions – chest muscles being sucked in when inhaling)
  • Paleness or grayish/blue tint in the skin, especially in the face and lips
  • Wheezing
  • Severe coughing 911 or seek emergency medical help immediately.

These guidelines are of a general nature and not intended to replace the advice and supervision of your physician or pharmacist.

Copyright 2009 Tamara Walker, R.N. All Rights Reserved. May be used only with author’s permission.