The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as
fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.
Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have
a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health
problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
The flu (influenza) is caused by a virus that’s easy to spread. And it can be more dangerous than you think. A flu shot is your best chance to avoid the flu. It’s best to get a flu shot each October or November, before flu season starts. This can be done at your doctor’s office or a health clinic. Drugstores, senior centers, and workplaces often offer flu shots, too. If you have questions about getting a flu shot, ask your healthcare provider.
Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly. Fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches are symptoms of the flu. Children may have upset stomach or vomiting, but adults usually don’t. Some symptoms, such as fatigue and cough, can last a few weeks.
How a Flu Shot Protects You
There are many strains (types) of flu viruses. Medical experts predict which 3 strains are most likely to make people sick each year. Flu shots are made from these strains. When you get a flu shot, inactivated (“killed”) flu viruses are injected into your body. These cannot give you the flu. But they do prompt your body to make antibodies to fight these flu strains. If you’re exposed to the same strains later in the flu season, the antibodies will fight off the germs.
Almost anyone can (and should) get a flu shot. But if supplies are limited, these high-risk groups have priority:
Who Can’t Get a Flu Shot?
If your child has:
|Fever||Common; typically lasts 3-4 days||Uncommon; if present, typically low-grade|
Aches & pains,
|Very common, sometimes severe||Slight to moderate|
|Fatigue and weaknes||Moderate to servere||Mild|
|Stuffy or runny nose||Common||Very common|
|Extreme exhaustion||Very common early on||Extremely rare|
|Cough||Usually non-productive (dry) cough, moderately servere, lasting 3-7 days.||Hacking, often productive, mild to moderately servere, lasting 3-7 days. Usually responds to cough medications.|
It’s most likely NOT the flu if an adult has vomiting or diarrhea for a day or two. This so-called “stomach flu” is probably a GI (gastrointestinal) infection.
Without proper care, a respiratory infection can get worse. This can be very serious. In fact, about 36,000 people die of flu complications each year. If you aren’t getting better, call your healthcare provider. Complications can include:
|Key Facts About Influenza (the Flu) and the Influenza Vaccine (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)|
Ask your doctor whether your child should
have a flu shot or a vaccination against pneumococcal
Pneumonia is a term that means lung infection. It can be caused by infection by germs, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Though most children are able to get better at home with treatment from their doctor, pneumonia can be very serious and can require hospitalization. Untreated pneumonia can lead to serious illness and even death. So it is important for a child with pneumonia to get treatment.
Pneumonia is caused by an infection that spreads to the lungs. The child often begins with symptoms of a cold or sore throat. Symptoms then get worse as pneumonia develops. Symptoms vary widely, but often include:
Bacterial pneumonia: If the cause of the infection is found to be a bacteria, antibiotics will be prescribed. Your child should start to feel better within 24–48 hours of starting this medication. It is very important that the child finish ALL of the antibiotic medication, even if he or she feels better.
Viral pneumonia: Antibiotics will not help viral pneumonia. This infection will go away on its own. To help your child feel more comfortable, your doctor may suggest medication for the child’s symptoms.
Follow any instructions your doctor gives you for treating your child’s illness. A very sick child may need to be admitted to the hospital for a short time. In the hospital, the child can be made comfortable and may be given fluids and oxygen.
If your doctor feels it is safe to treat the child at home, do the following to help him feel more comfortable and get better faster:
Any time you see signs of distress in your child, including:
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