We've put together this infographic flowchart to help you determine whether your child has either a common cold or a more threatening ailment such as the flu. For a fun way to teach your child flu prevention, have a look at our Flu Prevention Song Video. Knowing the difference between the symptoms of each of these illnesses can go a long way in getting your child the medical care they need as quickly as possible and nipping a potential flu outbreak in the bud.
While both the common cold and flu are illnesses affecting the respiratory system, they are caused by different pathogenic viruses. And as they both share similar symptoms it can be difficult to tell which ailment your child may be suffering from. A general rule of thumb is that the symptoms common to both are more severe with the flu than they are when attributed to a cold.
The symptoms of the flu that very closely mimic the symptoms of a common cold include coughing, nasal and sinus congestion, runny noses, body aches, and a general feeling of malaise or tiredness. However, it is atypical for a child with a cold to experience a fever of more than 38.3°C (101 °F).
Colds do not generally result in very serious health issues and will often self-resolve with time and rest. The flu, however, can lead to significant health problems requiring hospitalisation such as bacterial infections, and pneumonia. As soon as you suspect your child has the flu rather than a cold, you should seek medical attention. The earlier a child with the flu is treated, the more likely they are to make a full and speedy recovery.
Now that you know a little bit more about what to look for to differentiate the common cold and the flu, what can you do to help stop their spread? One of the biggest steps you can take is to ensure that all coughs and sneezes are covered. Utilising a tissue or your sleeve to cover and block the germs as they are expelled is the best practice as using hands to do so tends to inadvertently spread the pathogens if one touches anything before washing their hands. Make sure to discard tissues right away rather than allowing them to remain on bedside tables or other surfaces that germs can be transferred to.
Washing hands often is a critical step in removing the illness-inducing pathogens and preventing further contamination of surfaces. Hands should be washed thoroughly for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and warm water. In circumstances where soap and water aren't available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer rubs are the next best thing.
The final steps to stopping the spread of both the common cold and the flu are to avoid unnecessary close contact with anyone who is sick with either illness and if your child has one or the other, keeping them home in bed to rest and recuperate.