Each year, cold and flu season sends parents into a frenzy. With the average child coming down with between six and 10 colds each year, there's a slim chance your child won't make it through the year without being sick at least once. Being in tight quarters at school with kids who don't always have the best hygiene practices makes it far too easy to spread germs. But if your child comes home feeling under the weather, it's important to be able to tell the difference between a cold and a fever. Luckily, there are distinct differences between a regular cold and the flu.
For starters, flu symptoms are generally more intense. While cold and flu symptoms can be similar, with both having sore throats, fevers, coughs, congestion, and headaches, flu symptoms are generally more severe. Additionally, body aches are a key symptom that is present in flu victims and not those with a regular cold.
Another key difference between the flu and a cold is how quickly the symptoms begin to show. When someone has a cold, symptoms will arrive slowly over a few days. On the other hand, flu symptoms can start to show in a few short hours.
“You can go from well to sick within just a few hours [if you have the flu],” Ian Tong, the chief medical officer at Doctor on Demand, said. Tong explains that symptoms may start with a cough but then will rapidly progress to a high fever, body aches, and fatigue.
And lastly, when someone has the flu they will feel much more run down than those with a cold. Extreme exhaustion is a common indication of the flu virus. While people may feel tired when they have a cold, those with the flu may feel extreme exhaustion for weeks while the virus runs its course.
Bad colds are often mistaken for the flu since they are both respiratory diseases. But you can tell the difference by how quickly the symptoms show and how severe the symptoms are.
So what should you do when your child comes down with the flu? With this year's flu season being unusually harsh, people are more worried about the flu than usual. As always, it's recommended to get a flu shot each year. But if your child does come down with the flu, there are a few things you should do to take care of them.
First, if you believe your child has come down with the flu, take them to their pediatrician as soon as possible. Because flu symptoms arrive so quickly, the treatment window for the flu virus is generally very short. So while there are prescription medications that can help treat the flu, they have to be administered quickly for them to work.
Next, it's important for your child to get a lot of rest. If your child is diagnosed with the flu, do not send them to school. This will only make them feel worse and allow them to spread the virus to other children. Rest allows the body to fight the infection and give the immune system a much-needed boost.
And lastly, keep them hydrated and eating healthy foods. With a high fever, dehydration can set in quickly so it's important to make sure they're getting plenty of fluids. And foods high in nutrients like magnesium, which is responsible for over 300 enzyme processes in the body, are important to help give the body what it needs to recover.
Unfortunately, even with the flu shot and great hygiene practices, getting sick isn't always avoidable. The best you can do is a parent is keep an eye on your child and take action as soon as you notice they're not feeling well.
Kelsey R. is a writer and an avid world traveler. When she’s not writing or listening to 80s music, you can find her exploring different countries, taking selfies with her dog Lady, and in constant search for the perfect brownie recipe.