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Both common cold and flu are illnesses which affect the respiratory system of the human body and both have similar symptoms so it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two on the basis of symptoms. Both common cold and flu are caused by different set of viruses and require different treatment. The symptoms of flu are severer than those of the common cold and the person suffering from flu will have severe symptoms of fever, body aches and pains, tiredness and dry cough.


When a child gets infected with cold, he is likely to have running nose or blocked nose. Common cold treatment is easy and the symptoms start to go away in a few days. However, flu caused due to viral infection may worsen and result in pneumonia or other infections and may lead to hospitalization. Specialized tests are required to be carried out to ascertain as to whether the child is suffering from common cold or flu.

Both the diseases are contagious and are air borne. Both are caused by inhaling droplets which hang in the air caused by coughing or sneezing by an infected person. The cloud of droplets let out by sneezing or coughing spreads in the atmosphere and remains for hours together. These also get transmitted by touching, shaking hands or using a towel earlier used by an infected person. Once contracted, then within 1 to 3 days of exposure, the symptoms are manifested for the next 5 days. Thereafter they start to recede and the child becomes normal.

For prevention of flu vaccines have been developed and are continuously being developed. These vaccines are against specific strains of viruses of the flu. After the birth of the child doctors give a booklet giving information about inoculation programme, generally as suggested by WHO. The child should be vaccinated at regular intervals to prevent contracting flu. Recently nasal spray flu vaccines have been developed and are effective. In case of common cold, the best way to avoid it is to keep away from the person suffering from cold. The child should be kept in a well ventilated room and antibacterial soaps should be used to wash hands.


Treatment of common cold and flu is different. There is no medicine which has direct effect on common cold. The medicines given are just to make the child feel comfortable. The best treatment is consumption of lot of fluids and rest. Medicines are given to reduce fever and inflammation. Within a day or so of infestation, the immune system of the body starts to develop anti bodies which results in making the child feel better. Some people take antibiotics but they may not be that effective as this is caused by virus and not by bacteria.

Treatment of flu which is caused by influenza virus is also done by making the patient rest, have lot of fluids. The child should not be administered aspirin as it may lead to development of Reye’s syndrome which affects liver and could be fatal in extreme cases. In this case, it also being a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective. Your doctor will suggest medicines depending upon the age and weight of the child. Do not try drugs yourself as the child may develop antibodies and the medicines may not remain effective in case these are needed to be administered subsequently. In extreme cases of flu the child may need hospitalisation for a few days.