Symptoms of a common cold or head cold are usually a stuffed-up nose, lessened appetite, headache and mild fatigue. A sore throat or mild cough is somewhat common. Sometimes there is a mild fever. With the flu, symptoms are more severe, and may include fever, cough, tiredness and aching body. There may also be a sore throat, hoarseness, and the glands in the neck may swell. Loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea are also common with flu-like illnesses.
The common cold is usually caused by a virus, which usually infects the nose and throat. Flu-like illnesses are also usually caused by a virus, which usually infect the head and chest.
Give your child plenty of fluids and urge him to rest. You can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, aches or a fever higher than 38.5o Celsius. Do not give your child Aspirin or products containing aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. If your child has a dry, hacking cough, you can give your child a cough syrup that contains dextromethorphan (DM). Do not use stronger cough medicines for a cough that brings up mucus from the chest.
Contact your physician if your child shows any of the following signs: earache, fever higher than 39oC (102oF), excessive sleepiness, excessive crankiness or fussiness, skin rash, or rapid breathing or difficulty in breathing. Common colds usually get better after five to seven days. Bad colds or flu-like illnesses may take a few days longer. A cough may linger for a few weeks. If your baby has breathing trouble, fever, poor appetite or vomiting, make sure he is checked by his doctor. Sometimes a cold can lead to complications, such as a middle ear infection, in which case your child needs to see a doctor. Signs of an ear infection are a high fever, earache, vomiting or irritability, and especially pus draining from the ear. Your child should also see a doctor if he gets an eye infection with his cold; a symptom is dried yellow pus in and around the eye.
The virus is carried in the saliva and nasal secretions and spreads through the air when people cough, sneeze or blow their noses. Teach your child to cover his mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
Your child can continue going to daycare or school if he feels well enough.