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The Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
By AAA Pediatrics
June 27, 2018
Category: Pediatric Care
Tags: flu   cold  

Your child suddenly has the chills, a fever and nasty body aches. She's coughing, and you wonder if she has a bad cold or maybe the flu. cold, fluHow do you know the difference? At AAA Pediatrics in Woodbridge, VA, Dr. Oscar Sugastti and Dr. Griselda Mesa are the pediatricians to see for prevention of and relief from colds and flu. They educate parents on the differences between the two illnesses and help you nurse your youngster back to health.

What is a cold?

Basically, it's an upper respiratory infection caused by one of a variety of viruses. While it cannot be cured by antibiotics, which only eradicate bacteria such as strep, a severe cold may warrant a trip to AAA Pediatrics. Your doctor in Woodbridge, VA, can direct symptom relief and rule out more serious illnesses (pneumonia, for example).

Colds are characterized by sneezing, coughing and congestion. Green, runny noses are typical, along with fevers and feelings of malaise. Some children have mild to moderate sore throats as well.

In general, cold symptoms are far less intense than flu symptoms. Treatment with plenty of fluids, acetaminophen for body aches and fever and over-the-counter pediatric decongestants generally gets children through the five- to seven-day cold.

What is the flu?

This viral illness involves the upper respiratory system, just as a cold does, but its symptoms are more widespread and much more debilitating. Fever is higher, onset is very quick and abrupt, and body aches and headache are very intense. Your child will feel tired, and chest congestion and a hard cough are typical of the flu.

Unfortunately, for very young children, the elderly or those people who are immunosuppressed, influenza can be dangerous, and unlike a simple cold, flu can cause complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Myocarditis, an infection of the heart muscle
  • Encephalitis, an infection of the brain
  • Sepsis, or body-wide infection

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control says that chronic health problems may worsen with the flu. Common examples are asthma and heart conditions.

What you can do

Prevent colds and flu with careful hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and staying out of crowds during peak season. Additionally, while you cannot be vaccinated against the common cold, influenza vaccines are available each year in advance of the flu season. All children (over the age of 6 months), teens and adults should receive flu shots. However, if you or your child are actively sick or allergic to flu shot components (eggs, for instance), refrain from receiving the vaccine. In any case, consult your pediatricians, Dr. Sugastti or Dr. Mesa about when to be immunized.

Arm your family

At AAA Pediatrics, the professional team wants to help you protect your children from colds and the flu. Arm your family with knowledge about these common illnesses and how to prevent them. If you have questions or concerns, please call your pediatricians in Woodbridge, VA, at (703) 580-6400.