Does Your Child Have a Cold or the Flu

It’s Cold and Flu Season…Do You Know the Difference?

Cold and flu symptoms can make us feel miserable. Flu season usually begins about November and lasts through March. Although colds as almost impossible to avoid, it is helpful to be aware of the differences between a cold and the flu. Properly managing the symptoms of both may prevent you from becoming more seriously ill.

The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different types of viruses.

  • Flu symptoms usually come on quickly (within 3-6 hours) and consist of a fever, body aches, dry cough, and extreme tiredness.
  • Cold symptoms are less severe and people experience a stuffy nose, productive cough, slight tiredness, and limited body aches.
  • A cold can last between 5 and 14 days, although symptoms often improve after 3 to 5 days.
  • The flu may last a little longer than a cold.


Symptoms Flu Cold
Sudden onset
Extreme exhaustion
Aches and Pains
Chest Discomfort
Stuffy Nose/Sneezing
Sore Throat
(3-4 days) High (101 degrees)
Early and prominent
Usual, often severe
Moderate to severe
Mild to moderate
Very mild

Cold & Flu Season Tips

Wash Your Hands!

Washing your hands often will help protect you and your family from germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. Be sure to get under your fingernail and between you fingers. Dry your hands with a clean towel and use a towel to turn off the faucet. This prevents re-contamination of your clean hands. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.


Take the time to thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces that you and your family have regular contact with, such as doorknobs, phones, computer keyboards, mouse, desktops, sinks, etc.


Get 8-9 hours of sleep every night, or what is normal for you. Insufficient sleep causes your immune system to weaken.

Stay Home

If possible, stay home from work, and keep your children home from school when sick. You can protect those you come in contact with from becoming ill. Children may return to school when they have been fever-free and off medications such as Tylenol and Motrin for 24 hours. This is a good rule for adults to follow as well. Returning to school or work too soon may slow your recovery and expose others to your illness.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Germs often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. This is why the CDC now recommends that people cough into their elbow/clothing and not into their hands.

Avoid close contact

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep you distance from others to prevent spreading your illness.


Many over-the-counter medications are available to help relieve cold and flu symptoms. Keep in mind that some may interact with some prescription medications. Always check with your physician or the pharmacist to be sure the medication is safe for you.

Vitamins/Liquids/Fresh Air

Take a multivitamin daily. If you aren’t sure which one, ask your physician or pharmacist to recommend one. Drink plenty of liquids. Hot drinks such as tea are helpful for sore throats and to relieve nasal congestion. Avoid milk as it makes secretions thicker. Try to get some fresh air and sun daily. On warm winter days, air out rooms by opening windows slightly. Long periods of time indoors in enclosed rooms make everyone more susceptible to spread of germs.

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