Is it a cold or the flu?

This is the first post in a three-part series about the influenza virus, vaccine and kids.

As a mother of four children, I’ve dealt with many sick days and visits to the doctor. When my kids were sick, I sometimes struggled, wondering whether they were suffering from a cold or flu. This is a question that will baffle many worried parents during the upcoming flu season. It is a difficult question because the flu and cold have similar symptoms. To help figure this out, I had a magnet stuck on my fridge that outlined the different symptoms for cold and flu.

The easiest way for me to tell whether one of my kids had a cold or the flu was fever. If they had a sudden onset of illness with a high fever it was probably the flu. This happened to my son once in high school and of course it was during exam time when he woke up with a very high fever. He insisted that he could not miss school. He said that if he missed the exam without handing in a doctor’s slip, he would fail the exam. So I took my lethargic bleary eyed son to the doctor.  While waiting I saw on the office wall a faded flu vs cold chart.  By this point he had every symptom of flu including chest pain. The doctor took one look at my son and told him there was no way he could write the exam and promptly wrote him a note.

What is the flu?

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, usually starts with the sudden onset of a headache, coupled with a sore throat and muscle aches. A cold is caused by a rhinovirus, which is much different from an influenza virus. Symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle aches, and nausea do not usually accompany a cold. Typically, cold symptoms include a runny nose, stuffy nose, cough, and sore throat.

Test Your Knowledge

A good way to test your flu knowledge is by doing this Flu I.Q. interactive quiz put together by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The flu is serious and can make even healthy people very sick. The most effective way to prevent influenza is by getting vaccinated. The flu vaccine, also referred to as the flu shot, is safe for anyone 6 months of age and older. It protects you and those around you from flu and its complications. This year, help your family to avoid missing important events—like final exams. Please get your flu shot.

About this guest blogger:

Frances Weatherley is a Registered Nurse and is currently an Infection Control Specialist for Health Protection Services at Halton Region.  She has worked for Halton Region for the past 8 years and prior to this has been working in various hospital settings for over 18 years.

Share your experience:

To share your experience, or to get more information about the flu and the flu vaccine, you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This entry was posted in Babies, Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Baby Safe, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting Your Baby, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is it a cold or the flu?

  1. mumhoody says:

    I am doing baby posts every day. This helped for not only the blog posts but also for my baby son. Thanks ! keep it up.

  2. mumhoody says:

    P.S. I have also linked your post to my blog post.

  3. Pingback: Post # 629 : Managing a sick baby. | mumhoodchallenges

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