Your 8-year-old arrives home from school with a fever, a headache, a hacking cough and a look of misery on his face. Is it a cold or the flu?
Many people head into flu season - generally November through March - confused about what really constitutes the flu and what is actually a head cold or virus. The American Lung Association and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases offer these explanations of the differences between the two illnesses.
A Cold - Colds are considered minor infections of the nose and throat, caused by different viruses. Symptoms can include:
• a runny nose
• a cough and
• a sore or scratchy throat
Colds can last about a week, even longer in the elderly, children and people in poor health. Colds are also highly contagious, spread when droplets of fluid are transferred by touch. That's why hand-washing is crucial, particularly around a person suffering from a cold. Complications from a cold include sinus congestion or earache.
The flu is more severe than a cold. There are three types of influenza virus - A, B, and C, with A and B being the most severe. A and B flu viruses change all the time, and different strains afflict people around the world each year. To keep the body's defenses working against these changing strains, a flu vaccine is highly recommended.
Flu symptoms include:
• a high fever (101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
• muscle aches
• pronounced fatigue and weakness
• a prominent headache and
• coughing and chest discomfort.
The flu can sometimes include congestion, sneezing or a sore throat. Influenza usually lasts a week or two, although the feeling of weakness can persist for a while longer, particularly in the elderly. Again, regular and thorough hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid coming down with the flu, as is getting the flu vaccine (which is available as an injection or a nasal spray). Complications from the flu, including bronchitis or pneumonia, can be life-threatening.
Deirdre Wilson is national senior editor for Dominion Parenting Media and Parenthood.com.
© Parenthood.com, used with permission.
Don't fret if your child gets one of many common child viruses. Kids get sick. It's a fact of life, but that doesn't make it any easier on us parents. Our battle to make it better begins with the first cough, sniffle or sneeze. And the enemy? A nasty little thing called a virus, the cause of most childhood illnesses.
Learn how to get rid of head lice to ensure that your child does not unintentionally spread the lice to others.