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How Do Parents Know If Kids Have The Cold Or a Flu?

How Do Parents Know If Kids Have The Cold Or a Flu?

It's that time again… kids or parents (or worse, both) start to feel under the weather. Seasonal changes lead to higher susceptibility, alongside the big elephant in the room this year ‒ COVID-19. So how do you know if your kids have a cold or flu? Let’s start with some basics.

If it’s the Common “Cold” or an Influenza “Flu” the kids have picked up, you know the following week is going to be tougher. But how are you able to tell the difference between them? And, even if you know ‒ what next?

Both the cold and flu are respiratory illnesses, but they're caused by different viruses. The cold lasts a bit longer, usually, one week says Healthline. According to Better Health, the flu is far more intense but only lasts about 4–5 days. Yet, the flu is more serious. Both affect people differently, so kids and adults can have a wide range of symptoms. 

The cold starts more slowly and we tend to know we are sick around 24‒48 hours after we catch the virus. Our bodies try to fight it off by sending out mucus and making us sneeze, cough, and generally feel miserable. The symptoms get more intense over the next 48 hours, then finally start to mellow. It's contagious about 2 days before you get symptoms and many days after. So, it's contagious for nearly 2 weeks, probably why it’s called the “common cold”, it sticks around.

The flu, on the other hand, comes on faster. It often starts with mild muscle aches, a slight tickle in the throat, or a feeling of extreme tiredness after hard work. The flu contains more body aches, fever, dry cough, fatigue, headaches, and chills. It’s only contagious for about 5 days to 1 week. 

As a parent, you know when your little ones are under the weather and it’s mostly unavoidable – picked up at school, kinder, play centres, parties, playgroups… yes, the list goes on and on! In these bustling worlds of activity your kid (or kids) interact with, if something’s “going around”, it’s often easier to find out from other parents, teachers and caretakers. So be sure to chat with them, even on seemingly harder topics like illness. 

While both are no picnic, especially for the little ones, the flu can lead to severe illness and complications. If you’re ever concerned, seek medical advice. In Australia, there are 24-hour support numbers like Nurse-On-Call and Need Help Now so you can reach out and call someone fast if you ever have questions or are worried about your kid’s health.

How our bodies and our little ones respond to both the cold and flu differ due to underlying health factors and how well our immune system responds to the viruses. That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy immune system. The immune system is our body's natural defence to fight viruses. The stronger it is, the better our bodies do against them. 

You can help support your family’s immune health naturally with these four simple tips.

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