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Your Child is Sick: Is it Really the Flu?

A high fever, bad cough, sore throat and chills can only mean one thing – your child has caught the flu. Or does it? The common cold and influenza share many symptoms, so it can be difficult to decide when your child needs to visit your pediatrician.

KidsHealth has several ways for you to distinguish your child's symptoms. Use the chart below to determine if your child has a cold or the flu.





Learn the Symptoms: Flu vs. Common Cold

Questions? Flu Cold
Did your child get sick suddenly? Yes, the onset of the illness was sudden. No, it was a slow progression.
Is your child running a fever? Yes, a high fever. No fever or only a mild fever.
Is your child exhausted? Yes, severely exhausted No, mildly tired
Does your child have a headache? Yes. No.
Is your child able to eat normally? No, appetite is decreased. Yes, appetite is normal.
Do your child's muscles ache? Yes, achy all over. No aches or pains.
Does your child have chills? Yes, frequent chills. No chills at all.

Common flu symptoms include muscle or body aches, runny or stuffy noses, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea, coughing and sore throats. While fever is also a common symptom, not everyone who has the flu runs a fever. Common cold symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, but they are not as severe.

If your child has a cold, he or she should still have a normal appetite, no aches or chills and either no fever or a mild fever. If these symptoms become worse, however, it's time to call your doctor. Breathing difficulties, high fever, intense headaches and sore throats are all signs you should make an appointment with your pediatrician.

Talk to your doctor if you are ever unsure about your child's symptoms. It's better to be safe than risk your child getting worse.

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