What are cold and flu?
Cold and flu are both illnesses caused by viruses, and although they share many symptoms, they are actually quite different.
The common cold can be caused by almost 200 different viruses that infect the nose, throat and sinuses. Children catch the cold so often because they haven’t ever been exposed to these viruses before.
The flu virus is quite different from the cold, and can cause quite different symptoms. It can come on very quickly, too.
So what symptoms should you look out for to tell a cold from the flu?
Spotting a cold
Some common cold symptoms include:
You’ll usually notice that symptoms develop over a couple of days and last for a few days. In some cases colds can last for as long as 10 to 14 days.
Spotting the flu
Flu can be a lot more severe than a cold, and can sometimes leave your child feeling out of sorts.
Some common flu symptoms include:
- Fever that comes on rapidly
- Aches & pains in muscles
- Chills or sweating
- Dry cough
The flu can affect your child quite quickly, and it can make them feel really unwell for a few days. Most cases of flu clear up within a week although the tiredness may last a little longer.
What can you do?
The most important thing you can do for your little one – whether it’s cold or flu that is making them ill – is make sure they are well rested, to help them fight off the infection.
Here are some tips that we recommend for making your child feel more comfortable:
- Make sure they have plenty to drink. If they have started eating solid food, offer plenty of cool drinks, especially water.
- Don’t overheat your house. Even if they feel shivery, your child will be more comfortable in a well-aired room at a normal temperature.
- If your child has a fever, dress them in light clothes and use only light bedding.
- If they have a stuffy nose, you could try a nasal spray or vapour rub to help them breathe more easily – but make sure you use a product that’s suitable for children.
- If your baby has a blocked nose, you could also try raising the head of their bed a little, to help their breathing.
Are there any treatments?
There’s no cure for the cold and flu can’t be treated with antibiotics, but don’t worry, there are lots of ways you can help make your little one feel better.
For help deciding whether to choose paracetamol or ibuprofen, you should read our quick guide.
Should I call the doctor?
When your little one gets a cold or the flu, the chances are they’ll be just fine after a few days.
But you should get in touch with your GP if:
- Your child is finding it hard to breathe
- Your baby is less than 3 months, and has a temperature over 38°C
- Your child’s symptoms last more than 10 days
- They have severe earache for over 24 hours
- Their symptoms are getting worse, rather than better
This list is not exhaustive and of course, if you are worried at all about your child, you should get in touch with your GP.
- Dr. Carol Cooper on caring for a child with a feverWatch our short video to find out how best to take care of your baby if they have a fever.Watch our expert tips video
- How to use a nasal sprayTop tips on how to use a nasal spray, so you can help your baby breathe easier.More about using a nasal spray
CALCOUGH® Children’s Soothing Syrup
Contains glycerin and liquid sugar.
From 1 year.
Effective relief from coughs & sore throats.
This product can be taken alongside CALPOL® Infant Suspension if pain and fever relief is also neededFull product details
Contact the NHS
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