Healthy Tips: Cold vs. Influenza

Sponsored editorial supplied by Annapolis Pediatrics.

Now that fall is in full swing, cold and flu season will soon be upon us. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a common cold and influenza, commonly referred to as "the flu". Frequently, people get confused between a stomach bug and the flu. Influenza does not have vomiting and diarrhea as common symptoms, but those are typical for a stomach virus.

Influenza and colds are both caused by viruses, but while there are literally thousands of different viruses that cause colds, only a few strains of influenza circulate each year. The flu vaccine will protect against the most likely strains each year. There are no vaccines for colds, and getting a flu vaccine will not prevent a child from getting multiple colds each winter.

The symptoms of both are very similar, but flu symptoms are much more severe. The presence of fever is the most common symptom of flu, usually quite high, and often lasting for as long as 5 days. Both have sore throat, congestion, cough, and runny nose, but flu usually comes on very abruptly and has severe muscle aches and fatigue as well. Kids with colds are often able to play and go to school or daycare, while kids with flu can hardly get out of bed.

Influenza can be a very serious infection, and children younger than 2 years are at an especially high risk of hospitalization from flu itself or from the secondary bacterial infections that are common with flu. These include pneumonia, ear infections, and sinusitis. Colds rarely cause severe illness and do not frequently lead to secondary infections. margaret turner

While there is nothing we can do to treat a cold except comfort measures, there is an anti-viral medicine used to lessen the severity of influenza. This medicine (called Tamiflu) is approved for children as young as two weeks of age. While Tamiflu will not cure the illness, it will often shorten the length of time that a child has a fever and decreases the likelihood of developing a secondary bacterial illness. Tamiflu needs to be given within the first 48 hours after symptoms occur in order to have any benefit, so please make an appointment to be seen in the office if you are concerned your child may have influenza. Any child who has fever continuing after three days should be seen in the office as well. Any time you are worried about how your child is breathing, or if they are showing signs of dehydration, you should contact the office.

Best Ways to Prevent Spreading Influenza

The following tips to prevent the spread of influenza come from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

• Avoid kissing your infected child on or around the mouth, although he will need plenty of hugs during the illness.
• Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or his arm, and if a tissue is used, make certain it is disposed of properly.
• Make sure you and other caregivers wash hands both before and after caring for your child.
• Wash your child's utensils in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher.
• Don't allow others to share drinking glasses or utensils, and never share toothbrushes.
• Use disposable paper cups in the bathroom and kitchen.
• Talk with your physician about giving antiviral medication to other household members over one year of age to prevent them from contracting the flu.

Dr. Margaret Turner is Board Certified in Pediatrics and is a Managing Partner with Annapolis Pediatrics. Dr. Turner received her BS in Science from Wellesley College and her MD from Hahnemann University School of Medicine. She has been with Annapolis Pediatrics since 2001.

Sponsored Editorial by Annapolis Pediatrics. Annapolis Pediatrics can be reached at 410.263.6363 or annapolispediatrics.com

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