Parents understand that colds and the flu are a normal part of the household when you have children.

As the flu makes an appearance every year, estimates say that children under the age of six may suffer from six to eight bouts every year. Sudbury, ON based family physician Dr. Stephanie Sbrocchi recommends a few basic steps to get ready for the cold and flu season, which runs from September to April. “Teach children to cough or sneeze into their elbow crease and not into their hands,” she says. “Also get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, be active, and get your flu vaccine.”

Cold versus flu

Both have similar symptoms. They often start with nasal congestion, fever, cough, and a sore throat. The length of the fever is a strong indicator as to whether it’s a symptom of a cold or the flu.

“A regular cold will typically cause fever for just two to three days, whereas influenza can cause fever for up to seven days, and can also have associated vomiting and diarrhea,” explains Dr. Sbrocchi.   
If a fever does not respond to treatment with antipyretics such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the child should be assessed by a physician.

Monitoring fever

With the prevalence of fever and its debilitating effects, parents should always have a thermometer on hand. An ear thermometer is handy for taking the temperature of kids who are sleeping or who don’t tolerate an oral one well.

The newest models of thermometers have handy features, including a fever light-up bar that tells you at a glance if your child has a fever, memory recall to store the last 12 readings so you can track temperature trends and even an indicator to remind users when it’s time to clean the device — which is important to ensure an accurate reading every time.
Dr. Sbrocchi recommends that temperatures be assessed in children who appear unwell every four to six hours. Fever can leave kids dehydrated so increase their fluid intake until they’re on the mend.