Children's Health & Safety Association

Issue 43: July 2018

Monday, 31 December 2012 19:40

Colds, Fever and Flu - Getting the Facts Straight

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December 11, 2012 – Today children have an increased possibility of getting sick from a varied class of illnesses. Sometimes it is difficult to know how to take care of your child properly and have a sense of security and confidence that you have made the right decision. Here is a list of the most prevalent illnesses with definitions, signs, and symptoms that may lead you in the right direction.

Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, nose, and throat. The common cold is usually harmless, although it may not feel that way to a child. There are more than 100 viruses that can cause a common cold therefore signs and symptoms tend to vary. Preschool children are at greatest risk of frequent colds, but even healthy adults can expect to have a few colds each year. Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Most people recover from a common cold in about a week or two. If symptoms don't improve, see your doctor.

Common Cold signs and symptoms may include: runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, a mild headache, sneezing, watery eyes, low-grade fever, and mild fatigue.


A fever is usually a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in the body. For an adult, a fever may be uncomfortable, but fever usually isn't dangerous unless it reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. For very young children and infants, a slightly elevated temperature may indicate a serious infection but the degree of fever doesn't necessarily indicate the seriousness of the underlying condition. A minor illness may cause a high fever, and a more serious illness may cause a low fever. Usually a fever goes away within a few days. A number of over-the-counter medications lower a fever, but sometimes it's better left untreated. Fever seems to play a key role in helping your body fight off a number of infections. To be on the safe side consult with your family physician.

Fever signs and symptoms may include: sweating, shivering, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, dehydration, general weakness. High fevers between 103 F (39.4 C) and 106 F (41.1 C) may cause: hallucinations, confusion, irritability, convulsions, and dehydration.


Influenzais a viral infection that attacks the respiratory system — nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. Influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include young children, older adults, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and people who have chronic illnesses. The best defence against influenza is to receive an annual vaccination.

Dinarello CA, et al. Fever and hyperthermia. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Online. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=2871330. Accessed April 28, 2011.

1.Fever. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec14/ch167/ch167e.html. Accessed April 28, 2011.

2.Torpy J. Fever in infants. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;291:1284.

3.Fever, sweats and hot flashes. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/fever/healthprofessional. Accessed April 28, 2011.

4.Febrile seizures fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/detail_febrile_seizures.htm. Accessed April 28, 2011.

5.Ward MA. Pathophysiology and treatment of fever in infants and children. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 25, 2011.

6.O'Grady N, et al. Guidelines for evaluation of new fever in critically ill adult patients: 2008 update from the American College of Critical Care Medicine and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Critical Care Medicine, 2008;36:1330.

7.Sullivan JE, et al. Clinical report — Fever and antipyretic use in children. Pediatrics. 2011;127:580.

8.Leggett J. Approach to fever or suspected infection in the normal host. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/linkTo?type=bookPage&;isbn=978-1-4160-2805-5&eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2805-5..50307-4. Accessed May 2, 2011.

9.Bor DH. Approach to the adult with fever of unknown origin. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 25, 2011.

Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat but colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. Although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu.

Influenza signs and symptoms may include: fever over 100 F (38 C), aching muscles (especially in your back, arms and legs), chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, fatigue, weakness and nasal congestion.


Bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Often developing from a cold or other respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common and usually improves within a few days without lasting effects, although a cough may continue for weeks after the bronchitis resolves.

Bronchitis signs and symptoms may include: cough, production of mucus (sputum that is clear, white, yellow, or green), fatigue, slight fever and chills, and chest discomfort.


Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs caused by infection such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life threatening and is often a complication of another condition, such as the flu beginning with a cough and a fever. Antibiotics can treat most common forms of bacterial pneumonias, but antibiotic-resistant strains are a growing problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly advocates the routine vaccination to prevent infection. Infants and young children under the age of two are especially at higher risk to get pneumonia due to the following facts:flu5

  • They attend daycare centres
  • They have older siblings in daycare centres
  • They have had a recent ear infection or a recent course of antibiotics
  • They have an underlying illness or a compromised immune system

Pneumonia signs and symptoms may include
: coughing, wheezing, fever, rapid and laboured breathing, sweating, shaking chills, chest pain that fluctuates with breathing (pleurisy), headache, muscle pain, and fatigue. Depending on the type and severity of infection, infants may also suffer convulsions, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problems.

Facts about Pneumonia

  • Over 2 million children die from pneumonia each year globally.
  • Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5.
  • Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness including AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.

Protect Your Children

Teach your children to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. The tissue must then be discarded in a bin and hands should be thoroughly washed to help prevent the spread of germs. Teaching your children to wash their hands is the single most effective way to stop the spread of contagious illnesses.

Make sure children wash their hands before:

  • Eating their meals and snacks
  • Handling food or helping in the kitchen

flu4Make sure children wash their hands after:

  • Playing with toys that were shared with other children
  • Contact with other people who are sick
  • Using the washroom facilities
  • Blowing their nose
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Handling garbage
  • Visiting a public place
  • Petting an animal

The method to wash hands properly

Teach your children to sing a song like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "Frère Jacque" while they are washing their hands. When the song is over, it's time to rinse their hands.

  • Wet your hands with warm running water.
  • Put a small amount of liquid soap in the palm of one hand. (Bar soaps are not as hygienic because they attract germs).
  • Rub hands together for at least 15 seconds, bringing the soap to a lather.
  • Rub each palm over the back of the other hand.
  • Scrub between fingers, under fingernails and on the back of your hands.
  • Rub around each of your thumbs.
  • Rinse hands well with running water for at least 10 seconds.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.

Ways You Can Fight the Flu

  • Getting the annual flu shot between October and December is the most effective way to prevent the flu.
  • Keep kids at home and away from crowds when they are sick.
  • Keep common surfaces in your home clean and sanitized.
  • Do not share personal items, food, and drinks with people that are sick.

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