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

Symptoms of the common cold are a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. Your child may also have a sore throat, cough, headache, or other symptoms. Many different germs, called viruses, cause colds.

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’s cold or flu.

Alternate 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 other 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 that their 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 health care provider prescribe stronger medicines to help the symptoms?
  • Can my child take vitamins or herbs to make their cold or flu go away quicker? How do I know if they are safe?
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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 a child from getting a cold or the flu?

  • Can children have a flu shot ? What time of year should it be given? Does my child need one or two every year? What are the risks of the flu shot? What are the risks for my child if they do not get 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?
  • Does being around smokers cause my child to get the flu more easily?
  • Can my child take vitamins or herbs to prevent the flu?

References

Turner RB. The common cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 369.

Hayden FG. Influenza. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 372.

Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm. Accessed January 10, 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. Accessed January 10, 2014.

Updated: 12/4/2013

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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