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Child Cold & Flu

General PracticePaediatrics

Childhood colds and flu are common upper respiratory tract diseases caused by different viruses in children. The symptoms of these two conditions are very similar, making them easy to confuse, but there are differences in symptoms and severity.

Cold VS Flu

  • Cold
    There is no specific peak period, and it can occur throughout the year. The symptoms are mild and are usually caused by viruses infecting the upper respiratory tract, including the nasal cavity, throat, sinuses, trachea, and bronchi. Most people can rely on medication or even their immune system to fight the virus; no special treatment is needed for recovery.
     
  • Influenza (Flu)
    Similar to the symptoms of the common cold, it is accompanied by fever, severe vomiting or diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, greenish phlegm, extreme fatigue, and a chance of causing severe complications.

 

 ColdInfluenza (Flu)
PathogenCommon coronaviruses (e.g., rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus) and adenovirus causeCaused by influenza viruses, divided into three types: A, B, and C.
Symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Mild headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden onset of chills and fever
  • High fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
Incubation PeriodVaries1-4 days
Onset PeriodAbrupt and gradual, slow deteriorationAbrupt onset and rapid deterioration, with symptoms appearing 2-4 days after infection
Fever SituationLow to moderate fever, if present, usually lasts 1-3 days.High fever persists for 3-4 days.
Condition/IllnessRelatively mildSevere
Epidemic PeriodYear-roundSummer and winter
ComplicationsLess commonComplications include bronchitis, pneumonia, and even death.
InfectivityCommonHigh
Infectious PeriodVariesPatients can infect others about one day before onset and up to five to seven days after onset.
Transmission Routes

Transmission through respiratory droplets or direct contact with the patient's secretions.

Diagnosis

The main methods to distinguish between the common cold and the flu involve assessing the patient's symptoms and conducting clinical evaluations. Some rapid tests can assist doctors in making a more accurate diagnosis.

  • Clinical diagnosis: Although the symptoms of the common cold and the flu share many similarities, there are some differences. The flu typically has more severe systemic symptoms, such as high fever, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. On the other hand, the common cold symptoms are usually relatively mild and typically do not cause high fever.
     
  • Rapid flu tests: These tests detect influenza virus antigens or nucleic acids. Usually, samples are collected from the patient's nasal or throat area, and the test results can be obtained quickly. These tests are helpful for quickly confirming a flu infection.
     
  • Laboratory tests: In some cases, doctors may use further laboratory tests, such as nucleic acid or virological testing, to determine the specific pathogen causing the infection.

Treatments

  • The common cold can generally be managed by rest, staying hydrated, and using over-the-counter medications to alleviate discomfort. Some individuals may rely on their immune system to fight off the virus, and specific treatment is often not necessary for recovery.
     
  • However, due to the more severe symptoms associated with the flu, doctors may prescribe antiviral medications based on the patient's condition. It can help shorten the duration of illness and alleviate symptoms, especially in high-risk groups such as the elderly and young children.

Prevention

Children's immune systems are still in the developmental stage. Here are some methods for preventing flu and colds in children:

  • Get vaccinated against the flu: Age-appropriate children should receive the seasonal flu vaccine, which helps reduce the risk of flu infection and severe illness.
     
  • Frequent handwashing: Teach children to wash their hands regularly, especially after touching surfaces that may be contaminated, using the toilet, and before eating.
     
  • Teach proper coughing and sneezing etiquette: Children should learn to cover their mouths and noses with their elbows or tissues to reduce the spread of droplets.
     
  • Wearing masks and avoiding close contact with sick people: During the flu season, try to minimize children's contact with ill individuals, especially those with fever and cough. When going to crowded places, it's advisable to wear masks.
     
  • Maintain good hygiene habits: Instruct children to maintain good personal hygiene, avoid touching their faces, and refrain from sharing personal items with others.
     
  • Balanced nutrition: Provide a balanced diet to ensure that children receive sufficient nutrients to support the normal development of their immune systems.
     
  • Ensure adequate sleep: Sufficient sleep helps enhance immunity and reduces the risk of infection.
     
  • Stay away from places with infectious diseases: In regions where flu or cold outbreaks are known, avoid taking children to such areas.

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