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Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, your baby is going to catch a cold or the flu at least once in their lifetime. This is especially true during the fall and winter months where the risk of the flu is much higher.

But colds and the flu are two different illnesses, so how do you tell if your baby is having flu symptoms or just the common cold?

What Are the Causes of the Flu and a Cold?

Before getting into what you can do to help your child if they get sick, it’s important that you know what causes these illnesses first. A cold, which is actually known as an upper respiratory infection (URI), is caused by several viruses. The flu is caused by certain influenza viruses and multiple strains go around each year.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cold and the Flu?

While they are different illnesses, a URI and the flu actually share a few common symptoms. These symptoms include congestion, coughing and a sore throat, however, the onset and severity are different. The symptoms of a cold usually tend to gradually appear. In most cases, it starts off with a sore throat, which then progresses to cough, sneezing and runny nose. In rare cases, your baby may have a slight fever. These symptoms usually last up to 10 days.

The flu is a completely different story. Unlike a cold, the symptoms of the flu appear out of nowhere and will make your baby look and feel extremely ill. Often times, your baby has muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, fatigue and weakness. In severe cases, your child may experience a high fever and chills.

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Even though this illness is more severe than the common cold, most children recover within two weeks. However, if your baby is having trouble drinking liquids, has trouble breathing, has a change in their skin color or is profusely vomiting, go to urgent care immediately.


If your baby has a cold, then medications aren’t going to be needed. Simply make sure that they’re constantly hydrated, their nose is kept clear and they rest. For the flu, however, you’re going to have to take a different approach. If you suspect your baby has the flu, take them to the doctor. From there, their doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication, depending on the age of your child. The medications work better the earlier it’s caught so don’t wait. The younger your child is the more severe the Flu could be for them so make sure they’re vaccinated.

Seeing your precious little one sick is something no parent wants to experience. Keep in mind that every child is different and therefore, may require different forms of treatments. Be sure to consult the doctor so they can come up with the best course of action.