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Your child's common cold could be flu: Here's how to win the health battle

Uday Ananth Pai/ 15 Apr 18 | 06:27 AM

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Remember the last time your child was sent back from school due to a runny nose and cold? Did it occur to you that this could be ‘flu’ or did you simply think it was a ‘common cold’!

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Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body ache, headache, fatigue and, vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in kids. 

As a parent, be cautious of these symptoms in your kid —  drinking less fluids, fast or harder breathing, interacting less with others, and irritability.

Fighting the flu isn’t easy and it is all the more difficult to identify when it worsens and needs more focused care. What may seem like a common cold could actually be flu. The symptoms associated in both are similar. But some differentiating factors in terms of intensity and harshness of the symptoms, especially in toddlers could be the onset of illness. Babies tend to react with vomiting and diarrhoea due to the flu and the symptoms in flu are abrupt rather than a gradual onset like in a cold. 

Risk factors 

Flu or influenza is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. The viruses are found in the nose and throat, and is contagious.

Uday Ananth Pai, pediatrician

Age is a risk factor. Elderly people are more likely to face flu-related complications. Pregnant women and children have a higher risk of flu-related complications; also children born premature, those who have asthma and other lung illnesses, heart disease, diabetes, weakened immune systems, and other chronic medical conditions, are at a risk. Children, especially those under the age of five, and babies less than six months old are particularly at risk. Babies less than six months cannot be given a flu shot. For such cases, a vaccinated mother/caretakers help.

While a majority of kids who do catch the flu fully recover from the illness within about two weeks, there are certain cases that get complicated. The flu virus can cause pneumonia, an infection of the lungs and it could attack other organs in the body. It might be asthma, a congenital heart condition or diabetes, but a child’s existing chronic illness could make them more prone to flu-related complications.

What parents want?

All parents want a healthy and happy childhood for their kids. With several national health surveys highlighting the abysmal immunisation rates in the country, there is a constant communication focusing on the need to get immunised. When a recent consumer survey conducted by a leading health care company tried to focus on the reason for these low rates, it highlighted that mothers (40 per cent) do not take flu seriously and tend to confuse it with cold, fever, and runny nose. What is worrying is 37 per cent of pregnant mothers do not get a flu shot. And at the same time, 66 per cent of mothers say that if their family doctor advises them to vaccinate against flu, they will do it. According to a study, cough and fever most accurately predicted an influenza infection in all age groups. Several other symptoms were associated with an increased risk of influenza (headache, weakness, myalgia, coryza) or decreased risk (adenopathy, pharyngitis, shortness of breath, otitis/otalgia, bronchitis/ bronchiolitis), but not throughout all age groups.

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