Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

Is it a Cold or the Flu?

Cold and flu are very common at this time of year, but do you know how to tell the difference between the two?

Colds

Most children will catch a few colds over the winter months, but the symptoms are usually mild and won’t require the attention of your private paediatrician. However, you can always visit the London clinic for advice if your child seems to fall ill more frequently than usual or the symptoms persist for a long time. A cold will usually:

  • Develop quite slowly
  • Cause a runny nose, sore throat and other mild symptoms
  • Not cause a fever, or only cause a very low fever
  • Not cause headaches, chills or muscle aches
  • Not affect your child’s appetite (although a sore throat can make some foods unpleasant to eat)

Influenza

The symptoms of flu tend to be more severe than a cold, so you are more likely to see your private paediatrician in London if your child has influenza. However, the symptoms can usually be managed at home and should go away within a week. The flu will usually:

  • Develop quickly, with symptoms appearing suddenly
  • Cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, muscle pain and headache
  • Cause a fever, which could make your child feel chills
  • Reduce your child’s appetite and may cause vomiting and diarrhoea

When to Seek Help?

Both colds and the flu should be treated in the same way. Even a mild cold can be very uncomfortable, so it is important to do what you can to relieve the symptoms. Your child will need lots of rest and plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated. You might also want to give them an infant or children’s painkiller to help them to feel more comfortable.

Although both colds and the flu can usually be treated at home, it is important to see a doctor if your child develops a high fever, breathing difficulties or other severe symptoms. You should also consult your private paediatrician in London if the symptoms don’t improve within a week as this could be a sign that your child has developed a chest infection .