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Cold & Flu

Help parents understand that, while there's no cure for viruses like the common cold or flu, there are ways to manage symptoms and make their child more comfortable. 

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Parent counseling tips

Is it a cold or the flu?

Below is a table that outlines typical symptoms or characteristics of a cold and a flu.
Encourage parents to talk to a healthcare professional if they have any questions about these
symptoms or any specific diagnosis.

Cold symptoms: Flu symptoms:
  • Gradual over 48 hours; lasts up to 2 weeks
  • Sore throat
  • Fever when first sick, or no fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Mucus starts clear but changes to gray; can also be yellow or green
  • At times: cough and hoarse voice
  • Sneezing and watery eyes
  • Sudden; lasts 2-7 days
  • Fever with a runny nose, sore throat, and bad cough
  • Muscle pain, headache, chills
  • Nausea and diarrhea

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Cold and flu prevention

Cold & flu hands
  • Clean: Disinfect high-contact surfaces frequently
  • Avoid: Sharing food, drinks, utensils, etc, as well as close contact with those who are already sick
  • Wash: Make sure your child washes his or her hands often
  • Cover: Coughs and sneezes
  • Protect: Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date and give your child the annual flu shot by the end of October. It is generally safe for your child to receive additional shots, such as the COVID-19 vaccine, in the same visit, but talk to a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.

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Managing cold and flu symptoms

  • Rest: Have your child rest at home until their symptoms go away, plus an additional 24 hours after their fever breaks
  • Hydrate: Encourage your child to drink fluids
  • Humidify: Keep a cool-mist humidifier near your child’s bed; change the water daily

Managing fever

  • Lightly layer: Dress your child in layers so you can easily add or remove clothing
  • Cool down: Put your child in a tub with 1 to 2 inches of slightly warm water and sponge them all over; take them out if they start to shiver
  • Fever reducer: TYLENOL® or MOTRIN®
  • For more counseling tips,
    see Pain & Fever

Good to know

Tips for talking with vaccine-hesitant parents,
from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Despite concerns, most parents still vaccinate their children. Research has found that healthcare professionals can encourage vaccination by taking a “presumptive” rather than “participatory” approach to the subject. For example, rather than asking, “Do you want to vaccinate your child today?” (participatory), it can be more effective to say, “It's time for the annual flu vaccine. Your child is old enough to receive either the shot or the nose spray” (presumptive).1

Other communication tips include:

  • Stay positive: Emphasize the number of lives saved by immunization, rather than focusing on those who have suffered from not being immunized
  • Show the big picture: Mention collective benefits as often as individual benefits
  • Use imagery: Talk about vaccines as a “partner” for the body’s immune system, which helps teach the immune system how to respond to viruses


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