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Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - child

Definition

Many different germs, called viruses, cause colds. Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by the influenza virus.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your child's doctor or nurse to help you take care of your child with a cold or the flu.

Alternative names

What to ask your doctor about colds and the flu - child; Influenza - what to ask your doctor - child; Upper respiratory infection - what to ask your doctor - child; URI - what to ask your doctor - child; Swine flu (H1N1) - what to ask your doctor - child

Questions

What are the symptoms of a cold? What are the symptoms of the flu? How can I tell them apart?

  • Will my child have a fever? How high? How long will it last? Can a high fever be dangerous? Do I need to worry about my child having febrile seizures?
  • Will my child have a cough? Sore throat? Runny nose? Headache? Other symptoms? How long will these symptoms last? Will my child be tired or achy?
  • How will I know if my child has an ear infection? How will I know if my child has pneumonia?
  • How will I know if my child has swine flu (H1N1) or another type of flu?

Can other people become sick from being around my child? How can I prevent that? What should I do if I have other young children at home? How about somebody who is elderly?

When will my child start to feel better? When should I worry if my child's symptoms have not gone away?

What should my child eat or drink? How much? How will I know if my child is not drinking enough?

What medicines can I buy at the store to help with my child's symptoms?

  • Can my child take aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)? How about acetaminophen (Tylenol)?
  • Can my child take cold medicines?
  • Can my child's doctor prescribe stronger medicines to help the symptoms?
  • Can my child take vitamins or herbs to make the cold or flu go away quicker? How do I know if the vitamins or herbs are safe?

Will antibiotics make my child's symptoms go away faster? Are there medicines that can make the flu go away faster?

How can I keep my child from getting a cold or the flu?

  • Can children have flu shots? What time of year should the flu shot be given? Does my child need one or two flu shots every year? What are the risks of the flu shot? What are the risks for my child by not getting a flu shot? Does the regular flu shot protect my child against swine flu?
  • Will a flu shot keep my child from getting colds all year long?
  • Can being around smokers cause my child to get the flu more easily?
  • Can my child take vitamins or herbs to prevent the flu?

References

Wright PF. Influenza viruses. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 250.

Turner RB, Hayden GF. The common cold. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 371.

Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm. Updated August 14, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.

The flu: what to do if you get sick. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm. Updated August 14, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.


Review Date: 12/4/2013
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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