The Ultimate Cold and Flu Guide For Parents
The winter season is upon us, which means so is cold and flu season. Each year, 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. With all those germs going around, we put together this post to help you stay informed about the cold and flu and to help you and your family get through cold and flu season safely.
Cold Vs. Flu
When it comes to determining if your child has a cold or has the flu, take note of the symptoms they are experiencing. These symptoms can be key in determining which of the two illnesses your child has contracted. By watching their symptoms closely, you can be proactive with your child’s treatment and help them get over the illness as fast as possible.
The flu and the common cold have many similarities but are actually unique respiratory illnesses caused by two different viruses. While they have similar symptoms, the severity of the illness can be a good indicator of which virus is present. Those with the flu typically exhibit symptoms much more rapidly and with more intensity while those with a cold may slowly exhibit more and more symptoms over the course of a week or two.
While some colds are more severe than others, patients most often exhibit gradual symptoms consisting of sneezing, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, coughing and/or minor chest pain. It’s less common to see a high fever or any fever at all if a patient is infected with the cold virus.
One of the primary differences between the symptoms of the cold and flu is the speed at which the illness progresses. The flu virus comes on very quickly while a cold can take a week or two to slowly develop. When someone is infected with the influenza virus, they can exhibit virtually all of the symptoms of a cold, with additional worsening symptoms unique from the cold virus. These patients may also experience a high fever, chills, fatigue, aches and pains, and headaches. The flu is also much more contagious than a cold. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, they should stay home from school and visit a doctor immediately to receive medical treatment.
How to Treat The Cold & Flu
The good news about coming down with a cold or the flu is that they are both treatable. With a cold, patients can usually start feeling better in a few days after getting bed rest, drinking a plenty of fluids, and treating their symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers and cough medicines. As always, consult a pediatrician before giving your child any new medicines.
For patients with the influenza virus, treatment must be more serious. They should visit a doctor as soon as possible to receive antiviral medicine. The influenza virus typically takes about a week to pass through the human body with prescribed antiviral medications. Additionally, taking time to rest and drink as many fluids as possible can help aid recovery from the flu.
How to Prevent The Cold & Flu
The best way to get through cold and flu season is to avoid the cold and flu altogether. There are numerous things you can do to help prevent the spread of the influenza and cold viruses.
Get a flu shot.
The best thing you can do to help avoid the flu is to get a flu shot ahead of time, preferably by the end of October. Any child over 6 months of age is eligible for a flu shot. Influenza is a serious disease that, in some cases, can lead to hospitalization and even death, so it is wise to have your child vaccinated if possible. For information about the influenza vaccination, click here.
Practice habits that limit the spread of germs.
Educate your family about the spread of germs. Encourage them to wash their hands regularly, cover their coughs and sneezes, and to keep their hands away from the face as much as possible. You should also practice good cleaning habits and try to disinfect surfaces each day to limit the spread of germs within your home.
Educate your family about when to stay home.
Encourage your children to visit the school nurse if they aren’t feeling well and remember to always keep them home from school if they have a fever or other flu-like symptoms.
The United States Centers for Disease Control also has a full set of recommendations for school administrators indicating the best practices for avoiding the spread of the influenza virus.
If your child becomes sick during this cold and flu season, don’t hesitate. Call the child healthcare professionals at Glen Allen Pediatrics by dialing (804) 282-4210. As a small practice, the doctors, nurses, and staff at Glen Allen Pediatrics will get to know you and your child, providing continued, quality care that is customized to your child’s needs.