How to Tell If Your Child Has a Cold or the Flu

If your child has a sore throat, cough and high fever, you might be wondering if it’s the flu that’s going around, or just a common cold. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two since they have similar symptoms.

Young children are at a higher risk for flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization since their immune systems are still developing. Influenza — also known as the flu — can be a serious illness.

Symptoms of cold and flu are very similar, and this chart can help you tell them apart. However, it’s important to not assume your child’s illness is mild or just a cold if your child is very ill or exhibits serious symptoms.

If you are concerned about your child’s health, please immediately see your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment. Your child’s doctor may also want to treat your child with an anti-viral medication if it’s the flu.


 When To See a Doctor

It’s important to note that symptoms of a cold or the flu are very similar, especially in children. Both a cold and the flu can cause serious complications in children. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your child’s doctor, especially if symptoms are serious, progress or linger. Some serious symptoms to look for are:

  • High or persistent fever. For babies younger than 3 months, any fever above 100.4 degrees. For children older than three months, any fever above 102 degrees.
  • Your baby or child is not feeding/eating, or decreased number of wet diapers.
  • Your child can’t breathe, or is having fast, labored or noisy breathing from chest.
  • Your child can’t stop vomiting.
  • Your child’s lips look blue.
  • Your child has persistent pain such as an earache, sore throat, severe headache or stomach ache.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • A cough that doesn’t go away after 72 hours, or coughing so bad that the child is choking or vomiting.
  • Your child is extremely sleepy or cranky.
Immunization Guide

The key to preventing your child from getting an infectious disease is to know the facts about vaccinations. In this important guide from the experts at CHOC, you’ll find information on:

  • Learn why the nasal flu vaccine is not recommended
  • The truth about vaccines
  • “Herd immunity” and why it’s so important
  • Infectious diseases that teens are at high risk for and when they need booster vaccines
  • The ugly facts about measles and why there are still outbreaks
  • Important facts about the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine
  • Which immunizations can protect your child against pneumonia

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