How to Tell a Cold from the Flu

Your little one is coughing, sneezing and asking for comfort. How can you tell a cold from the flu? Knowing the difference between the two is important for any parent.

Although colds and the flu are both respiratory illnesses, they're caused by different types of viruses. The problem is that colds and the flu share symptoms, like coughing and sneezing. But I've listed a few ways to distinguish between the two. Keep in mind that every child is different. If you're worried about him or her, don't hesitate to call your pediatrician.

How can I tell if it's a cold? 
Colds are generally milder than the flu and usually last for about a week. Children typically develop a sore throat. The cold is more likely to cause sinus symptoms -- such as a runny nose, sniffling and sneezing -- followed by a cough. Kids can also present a low-grade fever, which is usually around 100 F. The symptoms of the flu also generally last longer -- up to two weeks -- than the symptoms of a cold, which usually last three to seven days.

How can I tell if it's the flu? 
More severe than a cold, flu symptoms tend to come on quickly: Your child can feel fine one day and horrible the next. The main symptom of the flu, however, is a fever. Kids can get a high-grade fever of up to 106 F. (Click here to learn more about when to call the doctor for a fever.) Other telltale signs include a dry cough, body aches and an overall feeling of fatigue.

What's the best way to treat the viruses? 
If your child has the flu, and she or someone in your home has a compromised immune system -- an infant, a senior citizen, or someone with a chronic illness -- call your pediatrician right away. Your doctor will want to prescribe an antiviral medication, which is most effective when taken 48 hours after onset. This can help prevent the spread of the flu, which can cause potentially dangerous complications, like pneumonia.

Otherwise, you can treat both illnesses the same way: Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest and fluids. You can use a fever-reducing medication, like acetaminophen, to bring down his or her temperature, as well as OTC meds to relieve symptoms.

If your child experiences respiratory problems and has trouble breathing, has a fever that lasts more than three days, or doesn't seem to be getting better with time, call your doctor. You want to make sure that he didn't develop a complication, such as pneumonia or a sinus or ear infection.

Hand-washing 101: When Scrubbing up Spreads Germs

Our hands allow us to work, interact and take care of our children -- but they can also make us sick."Hand-to-face contact is the most common way germs are spread," says Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, the vice chairman of academic affairs in the pediatrics department at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, a physician at Children's Hospital Colorado, and the author of Germ Proof Your Kids: The Complete Guide to Protecting (Without Overprotecting) Your Family From Infections. That's why proper hand-washing is the best defense against cold and flu.

Most of us -- 85 percent, an American Society for Microbiology and American Cleaning Institute study says -- hit the sink in public. But Rotbart says the majority aren't scrubbing up correctly. Read on to get the clean truth about how to kill germs with proper hand-washing protocol.

  • Take it all off. Before you turn on that faucet, remove your rings. According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, ring-wearers had higher counts of bacteria on their hands before and after washing than those who didn't wear them. Afraid you'll misplace your band? Shift it up your finger and clean beneath it.
  • Add a squirt. There are dozens of soap options available, but you can keep it simple. "There's no need for an antibacterial brand," says Rotbart."They're no more effective than the standard variety." He also recommends reaching for a liquid form. "The residue in soap dishes can make those bars a breeding ground of bacteria." For the cleanest suds, sterilize your dispenser pump in the dishwasher every other week.
  • Scrub thoroughly. "The purpose of washing your hands is creating friction to rub away germs, not to kill them," says Rotbart. Teach your child to clean his entire hand, including the wrists, backs of hands, between fingers and beneath fingernails.
  • Time it right. How long you spend washing up is key: A study from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that rinsing with water for five seconds didn't remove any germs, but washing with soap for 30 seconds eliminated them all. Experts recommend lathering up for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing the"ABC Song" or"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" twice. Then rinse thoroughly; the water temperature doesn't matter, says Rotbart.
  • Reach for a paper towel. "When you rub your hands with a towel, you're removing the last traces of germs," explains Rotbart. Since viruses can live on cloth surfaces, make sure each family member has his or her own. In a public bathroom that's all out of towels? Spend a little extra time with the air dryer."Bacteria continues to reproduce on wet hands," says Rotbart. In fact, a study published in Epidemiology and Infection found that when sick people touched someone else with damp hands, they transferred a whopping 68,000 microorganisms.

When to Wash
We all know to scrub after using the bathroom or before dinner, but there are less obvious times when your little one should lather up:

  • After playing with animals
  • After school and day care
  • After playing with someone who is sick, or in a doctor's waiting room
  • After playing outside
  • After blowing his nose or coughing into his hands
  • Before bedtime

When You're Not Near a Sink
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are great when soap and water aren't available. Germs can only survive in moist environments, and the rubbing alcohol in these sanitizers evaporates moisture on your skin, which kills any germs that may be on your hands. Rotbart recommends stashing separate bottles in your purse and kitchen.

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Flu-Proof Your Home

This year has been one of the worst for cold and flu in recent history, according to medical experts (and moms!). But this fact doesn’t mean that your family is sentenced to the sniffles for the remainder of the season.

While it’s impossible to banish the viruses that cause cold and flu, you can limit your family’s exposure to them at home. We sorted through the research to find the smart ways you can protect your clan.

1. Disinfect surprising surfaces.
After someone gets sick, you’re diligent about washing the sheets and spraying down the coffee table, but don’t forget to clean all the common spaces. Scientists at the University of Virginia discovered that some of the most-infected areas in the home included fridge handles, doorknobs, remote controls, light switches, bathroom faucets and dishwasher handles. Since viruses can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, it’s smart to do a deep clean of your home.

2. Choose the right cleaners.
To effectively kill those flu-causing viruses, look for wipes labeled “anti-virus.” According to British researchers, these sanitizing wipes are more effective than the garden varieties. If you’re on a budget, pick up a disinfecting spray. Or whip up a solution on your own from bleach or vinegar, both of which are proven virus-killers. (Just don’t mix the two ingredients together.)

3. Start a hand-washing rule.
It’s no secret that scrubbing up is the No.1 way to fend off the sniffles. Teach your children how to wash up properly with soap and water, making sure to scrub all surfaces (don’t forget beneath nails, between fingers and on the backs of the hands) for at least 20 seconds. Then make sure that every member of your family hits the sink as soon as they enter the home; after bathroom breaks and sneezes; and before meals.

4. Run a humidifier.
Cold and flu viruses thrive in chilly, dry atmospheres, reports a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Running a humidifier adds moisture to the air, which may deter the spread of those germs. Bonus: The added moisture keeps your nasal passages from drying out, so you can breathe easier.

5. Set out the tissues.
Just one sneeze can spray cold and flu infected droplets six feet! To prevent the spread of germs in your home, teach your little ones how to sneeze into their elbows or a tissue. And don’t forget to remind them to immediately toss those used tissues into the trash.

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Immune-boosting Foods You'll Love

You've heard it before: The best offense is good defense.

During cold and flu season, nutrition plays a major role in how well your immune system can fight off sniffles and coughs. The better you eat, the stronger your immune power. On the other hand, the more nutrient deficiencies you have, the more vulnerable you are to getting sick.

To keep your immune system working at its best, increase your intake of these foods during cold and flu season. You'll be glad you did. 

1. Mangoes
Mangoes include a broad spectrum of antioxidants, including vitamin A and zinc. Vitamin A enhances immunity by revving up the function of white blood cells, which fight infection. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for maintaining an overall healthy immune system.

How to get it: Whip up some mango salsa or a mango smoothie, or top yogurt with fresh mango slices. Strive to consume about 1 cup a day for the best benefit.

2. Garlic
Sometimes referred to as the"poor man's antibiotic," garlic has been eaten for centuries for its broad spectrum of therapeutic benefits. It is believed to stimulate the immune system by increasing the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Even more, two compounds found in garlic, inulin and allicin, are thought to be responsible for effectively killing bacteria as well as intestinal parasites.

How to get it: Add fresh garlic to sauces and dressings. Try to eat at least a clove every day during flu season.

3. Mushrooms
Chinese medicine and Eastern cultures have relied on mushrooms for their health benefits and immune-boosting properties for centuries. Beta-glucans, a type of sugar found in both raw and cooked mushrooms, is believed to be responsible for the immune-stimulating properties.

In addition, mushrooms are the only vegetable that naturally contains vitamin D, and decreased blood levels of vitamin D have been correlated with an increased risk of catching the influenza virus.

How to get it: Add mushrooms to salads, sauces and omelets. Eat about 1 cup of white button, crimini, shitake, maitake, reishi or portobello mushrooms every day.

4. Salmon
During the winter months when the air is dry, mucous membranes dry out and crack, providing the perfect opportunity for viruses and other nasty bugs to enter the body. Eating more fish that are rich in omega-3 fats can help maintain healthy cell membranes. Salmon (and other seafood) is also a source of selenium, which has been shown to reduce the severity of a virus once a person is exposed.

How to get it: Broil a salmon fillet or salmon steak and serve with fresh mango salsa. Eat salmon twice a week.

5. Green Tea
Drinking plenty of fluids during flu season is especially important for hydration as it helps the body maintain a strong defense against bad bugs. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate, which has been shown to stop the common cold from spreading.

How to get it: Drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea each day to get immune-boosting benefits and stay hydrated.

6. Yogurt
Aside from being an excellent source of calcium, dairy products like yogurt provide immune-boosting vitamin D and probiotics (also referred to as"live active cultures"). Vitamin D's production of antimicrobial substances is believed to stop viruses from spreading in the body. Probiotics found in yogurt can help the body fight infections and boost immunity by fortifying the healthy bacteria found in the digestive tract.

How to get it: Yogurt parfaits are the perfect breakfast or dessert. Make tangy salad dressings with plain yogurt or add to smoothies for an extra nutritional boost. Consume two servings of yogurt daily.

7. Almonds
Almonds contain vitamin E, which may help prevent colds and ward off upper respiratory infections. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that works in combination with other nutrients found in almonds, including selenium and magnesium.

How to get it: Make your own granola with toasted almonds, rolled oats and cinnamon. Or use almond butter instead of peanut butter. Eat about 22 almonds (or its equivalent) a day.

8. Spinach
Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse offering several key nutrients that help to boost immune function and health. It is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, folate, iron, vitamin B-2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B-6, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. With all these vitamins in one food, it's no wonder everyone should be consuming more of this leafy green.

How to get it: Sautee spinach with garlic and onions. Or make a spinach salad with pomegranate dressing, topped with toasted almonds.

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A School Nurse’s Tricks to Avoid Getting Sick

Your little one is coughing, sneezing and asking for comfort. How can you tell a cold from the flu? Knowing the difference between the two is important for any parent.

Although colds and the flu are both respiratory illnesses, they're caused by different types of viruses. The problem is that colds and the flu share symptoms, like coughing and sneezing. But I've listed a few ways to distinguish between the two. Keep in mind that every child is different. If you're worried about him or her, don't hesitate to call your pediatrician.

How can I tell if it's a cold? 
Colds are generally milder than the flu and usually last for about a week. Children typically develop a sore throat. The cold is more likely to cause sinus symptoms -- such as a runny nose, sniffling and sneezing -- followed by a cough. Kids can also present a low-grade fever, which is usually around 100 F. The symptoms of the flu also generally last longer -- up to two weeks -- than the symptoms of a cold, which usually last three to seven days.

How can I tell if it's the flu? 
More severe than a cold, flu symptoms tend to come on quickly: Your child can feel fine one day and horrible the next. The main symptom of the flu, however, is a fever. Kids can get a high-grade fever of up to 106 F. (Click here to learn more about when to call the doctor for a fever.) Other telltale signs include a dry cough, body aches and an overall feeling of fatigue.

What's the best way to treat the viruses? 
If your child has the flu, and she or someone in your home has a compromised immune system -- an infant, a senior citizen, or someone with a chronic illness -- call your pediatrician right away. Your doctor will want to prescribe an antiviral medication, which is most effective when taken 48 hours after onset. This can help prevent the spread of the flu, which can cause potentially dangerous complications, like pneumonia.

Otherwise, you can treat both illnesses the same way: Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest and fluids. You can use a fever-reducing medication, like acetaminophen, to bring down his or her temperature, as well as OTC meds to relieve symptoms.

If your child experiences respiratory problems and has trouble breathing, has a fever that lasts more than three days, or doesn't seem to be getting better with time, call your doctor. You want to make sure that he didn't develop a complication, such as pneumonia or a sinus or ear infection.

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.