All these illnesses are caused by viruses
that infect the respiratory tract. All
are contagious and can spread easily from person to person. And they cause some similar
symptoms. So it can be hard to tell them apart.
Here are some things to look for if your child gets sick.
The Common Cold (Caused by Many Different Viruses)
Cold symptoms usually are mild. They often include a tickly throat, a runny or
stuffy nose, and sneezing. If there's a fever, it is not
high. A child with a cold usually feels quite well, and has a good appetite and
normal energy levels.
There is no test for the common cold, and no specific treatment. It just needs
to run its course.
The Flu (Caused by the Influenza Virus)
The flu can also be mild. Usually, though, kids with the flu feel worse than if
they have a cold. They might have a fever that comes on suddenly, with chills, a headache, and body aches. They can have
a sore throat, runny nose, and cough. And they feel generally miserable and tired
and don't have much of an appetite. Some kids even have belly pain, nausea, vomiting,
A doctor can check if someone has the flu by doing a test that looks for the flu
Most kids with flu get better
at home with plenty of liquids, rest, and comfort. In some cases, a doctor might
prescribe an antiviral medicine to lessen the symptoms and shorten the illness. Some
people get very ill and need treatment in the hospital.
Many cases of the flu can be prevented by getting a flu
vaccine every year.
COVID-19 (Caused by a Type of Coronavirus)
Kids infected by the coronavirus may not have any symptoms, or their symptoms can
be mild, like those of a common cold. Some can have more severe flu-like symptoms.
So COVID-19 symptoms can look very much like those from a cold or the flu. But one
symptom that happens more commonly in COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell.
To see if someone has coronavirus, doctors can do
a test that looks for a piece of the virus in the respiratory tract. They also
can check for a past infection by doing a blood
test that looks for antibodies.
There is no specific medicine for COVID-19. Most people who have it get
better at home with plenty of liquids, rest, and comfort. Some people get very
ill and need treatment in the hospital.
COVID-19 vaccines are now available for people 16 and older. Health care workers
and people at high risk for getting very sick if they're infected have been first
in line to get vaccinated. Other adults and teens 16 and older can get a vaccine in
the spring and summer of 2021. Studies are underway to see if the vaccines are safe
and effective in children younger than 16.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
If you have any doubts or questions, it's best to call your doctor. An illness
that seems like a cold can turn out to be the flu or COVID-19. And other illnesses,
like strep throat or pneumonia,
can cause similar symptoms but need different treatment. Sometimes it's hard to know
for sure which germ is causing the problem. Then, doctors might do some tests to find
Get medical care right away if your child:
seems to be getting worse
has trouble breathing
has a high fever
has a bad headache
has a sore throat
has severe belly pain
has pain or pressure in the chest
has trouble staying awake
looks bluish in the lips or face
Call your doctor right away if your child has asthma
or another illness and starts to feel sick with symptoms that might be the flu or
COVID-19. The doctor might want to do some tests or start a specific medicine for