A high fever, bad cough, sore throat and chills can only mean one thing – your child has caught the flu. Or does it?

The common cold and influenza share many symptoms, so it can be difficult to decide when your child needs to visit your pediatrician.

KidsHealth has several ways for you to distinguish your child's symptoms. Use the chart below to determine if your child has a cold or the flu.



differences between the cold and flu symptoms (information in text below)

Do you have a cold or the flu?

Is it a cold, the flu, or the stomach flu?
Medical Issue Common Cold Seasonal Flu Stomach Flu
Cause Different viruses Influenza A or B virus Virus or bacteria
Sore throat Common Sometimes No
Stuffy/runny nose Common Sometimes No
Cough Sometimes Usually No
Chills/pains/aches Uncommon Yes Common
Headache Uncommon Yes Sometimes
Fever Rare Yes (100-102°) Sometimes
Extreme fatigue Uncommon Yes Sometimes
Vomiting/diarrhea No Uncommon (more likely in kids) Usually
Treatment Consider staying at home to rest, hydrate, use OTC drugs Stay home and rest, hydrate, use OTC drugs Stay home and rest, replace lost fluids
Prevention Wash hands, avoid contact with sick people Get yearly flu shot, wash hands, avoid contact with sick people Wash hands, wash fruits/veggies, cook seafood fully

Common flu symptoms include muscle or body aches, runny or stuffy noses, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea, coughing and sore throats. While fever is also a common symptom, not everyone who has the flu runs a fever. Common cold symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, but they are not as severe.

If your child has a cold, he or she should still have a normal appetite, no aches or chills and either no fever or a mild fever. If these symptoms become worse, however, it's time to call your doctor. Breathing difficulties, high fever, intense headaches and sore throats are all signs you should make an appointment with your pediatrician.

Talk to your doctor if you are ever unsure about your child's symptoms. It's better to be safe than risk your child getting worse.