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Posted January 7, 2014

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Is it a Cold or the Flu?

School nurse provides helpful tips for parents during flu season.

Information courtesy of Roberta Davis-Carter, nurse at S.Y. Jackson Elementary

It’s that time -- flu season. Parents often ask how to tell if their child has a cold or the flu. Here are the differences:

SymptomsCold Flu
Fever Rare Usually high - 102-104F
Headache Rare Common
Achy Slight Usual -- often severe
Fatigue Sometimes Usual
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual
Stuffy nose Usual Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Score throat Common Sometimes
Cough Mild Common -- often severe

Here are some easy ways to prevent getting the flu:

  • Get a flu shot or the flu mist
  • Keep your hands washed, especially before eating or touching your face, nose or mouth
  • Stay away from those who are sick
  • If you are sick and have a fever of 100F or higher, stay home from school or work, drink plenty of fluids and rest. It is recommend being fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school or work.

Flu season, or really “influenza” season, is usually from October to May, but it can begin earlier and end later. It is quite unpredictable.

It's not too late to get a flu shot. The flu shot is designed to protect against three main influenza strains that research has shown cause most flu illness. It is impossible to predict, with 100 percent certainty, which influenza strains will be the most predominant. Influenza is a virus that constantly changes from year to year. The influenza immunization also changes each year to cover the new strains that are “predicted” to show up the following year.

Some people avoid getting the flu shot/mist because every time they do, they get the flu. The flu shot cannot give you the flu. If you actually do get the flu after getting a flu shot it was probably that you were exposed to the flu right before you got the immunization, and therefore the flu shot could not prevent it. It is normal to feel achy, or have a slight fever after getting the flu shot. The flu shot actually slaps your immune system, activating it, and that causes the feeling achiness or a slight fever. It is just your immune system doing what your immune system is supposed to do.

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