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It can often be difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of influenza (the flu) and the common cold. In general, cold symptoms tend to be milder and don't usually last as long as flu symptoms. Flu symptoms can start quickly and may include:
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme fatigue.
Note that the real flu is a respiratory illness, not a gastrointestinal one. It is not the "stomach flu" (involving predominately vomiting and/or diarrhea). Sometimes vomiting or diarrhea accompany the flu, but these are not the main symptoms. 
Although influenza is a common illness, it is important to be watchful for complications that may occur. In some cases, after a child starts to feel better, new symptoms may occur, such as:
  • Shaking or chills
  • High fever
  • Chest pain with each breath
  • Coughing that produces thick, yellow-green mucus.
These symptoms may be an indication of pneumonia, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. If your child shows any of these signs, contact his or her healthcare provider right away.
Some children and adolescents who are recovering from the flu may also develop a complication called Reye's syndrome, which affects the nerves. This condition starts with nausea and vomiting, but progresses into mental changes, such as confusion or delirium. In many cases, Reye's syndrome starts after a young person takes an aspirin to help relieve pain or fever. Although this condition is rare, never give a child (even a teen) aspirin unless your child's doctor specifically recommends it.
The best way to avoid the flu is by getting a vaccination each year. You can also prevent this illness by practicing proper hand hygiene. The flu is an airborne viral infection that does not respond to antibiotics. The most effective treatment is over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medications to help relieve symptoms. There are antiviral medications that can help as well, but they have a relatively small effect on the illness, at best, and don't work at all if you wait too long.
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