Flu vs. Cold in Kids: 12 Ways to Tell the Difference

sick girl in bed

Sooner or later, all parents end up with a sick kid ... only how sick is the big question. That's because colds and the flu have such similar symptoms, it's hard to tell one from the other. "Sometimes it's hard to tell if your child has a cold or the flu for parents and doctors alike," says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine practitioner at Mercy Medical Center. "Colds and the flu not only have many of the same symptoms, but another complicating factor is that the worst of the 'cold season' is September through April -- pretty much the same time as the flu season."

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Still, it's important to be able to distinguish colds from the flu because the latter can cause serious health problems. "Influenza can cause complications such as pneumonia, a bad asthma exacerbation, or other complications like dehydration in hosts who aren't as healthy to fight off infections easily," says Cheryl Wu, MD, a pediatrician in New York.

"Parents should contact their physician if they think their child has the flu," says Deena Blanchard, MD, a pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics NY. "There are tests available for diagnosis." To help you figure out what you're dealing with, here's a look how symptoms differ with the cold and the flu so you can tell which is which.

How do you tell if your kid has a cold or the flu?


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