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Categories > Children’s Health > Colds and flu

What’s the difference?

“I can’t tell if my preschooler is catching a cold or the flu. How can I know which it is?”

You can use the general symptom checklist below to help you figure out what your child means by “Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

Remember, your child doesn’t need to have all the symptoms to have the flu or a cold. In fact, flu sometimes has coldlike symptoms. But the swiftness and intensity of flu’s onset are its most common signs.

Flu caught within 48 hours of first symptoms can sometimes be treated with an antiviral prescription medicine. This can shorten your child’s illness by a day or two. Check with your pediatrician if this therapy is suitable for your little patient.

And whether it’s a cold or the flu, comfort your child with plenty of liquids, bed rest and acetaminophen for fever and aches.

SymptomThe fluA cold
Did the illness come on …suddenlyslowly
Is your child’s fever …highmild (or absent)
Is your child acting …exhausteda bit “out of it”
Is your child’s cough …dryhacking
Is his or her throat …normalred, sore
Is your child’s nose …dryrunny
Does his or her head …achenot ache
Has your child’s appetite …gone downstayed the same
Do your child’s muscles …achenot ache
Does your child have …chillsno chills