Health Tip: When a Cold Won’t Go Away
Coughs and sniffles are common among little ones. But if symptoms persist, especially at the same time each year, the child may actually have an allergy.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says warning signs of child allergies include:
- Persistent cold-like symptoms that last longer than one to two weeks, or tend to strike at the same time each year.
- Frequent red, itchy, and often scaly rashes in the creases of the elbows or knees can also signal an allergy.
- Gagging, wheezing, vomiting, abdominal pain, coughing, hives or swelling that tend to occur after eating a particular food can signal a food allergy.
- Chronic coughing, wheezing or tightness in the chest could actually signal asthma.
What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
Both the common cold and the flu (influenza) are caused by viruses— but by different types of viruses. The rhinovirus is the most common cause of a cold, while the influenza virus causes the flu. You can usually tell whether you have a cold or the flu based on your symptoms. A fever is rare with a cold, but common with the flu. Headaches, muscle pains, weakness, and fatigue are rare or mild with a cold but more common or severe with the flu. Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat are common with a cold but less common with the flu.
Both the common cold and the flu can lead to complications. The common cold can cause sinus congestion and earaches. The flu can lead to more severe problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Fortunately, you can prevent the flu and its dangerous complications by getting a yearly flu shot. The prescription medicines oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), and amantidine (Symmetrel) can help reduce the time it takes to recover from the flu if you start taking them within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms.
Oseltamivir was recently approved for use in preventing the flu. Individuals exposed to the flu from close contacts or those who are at risk for the flu due to community outbreaks can reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu by starting oseltamivir before symptoms arise.
Zanamivir may also prevent flu symptoms. A recent study showed that zanamivir can reduce the likelihood of a getting the flu from an ill family member by 79% when taken within 36 hours of initial symptoms.
Unfortunately, no vaccine or medicines can prevent the common cold or reduce its duration. But over-the-counter medicines such as decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers can help relieve symptoms of both the cold and the flu.