Once the arrival of the flu in a neighborhood makes the headlines, parents begin to worry about every sniffle. So how do you know if your child has the flu or just a cold?

The common cold

The common cold lasts about nine to ten days and is sometimes described as three days coming, three days here and three days going. The first three days your child may have a fever. In infants and toddlers, their temperature might reach 103-104, but if you give them some acetaminophen or ibuprofen, their temperature will lower and they will seem better. In older children, there might be a low-grade fever or none at all. But then comes the runny nose. A cold always causes a runny nose, but the flu usually does not.

During the middle phase of a cold, a child may develop a cough due to congestion from the nose, however, it will not be a deep or hacking cough, and usually there is no chest pain as they would have with the flu. During this time the fever is usually gone, and your child might be back to his activities, despite the runny nose and mild cough.

The final three days is when the mucous starts to thicken and become crusty. At this point, wipe your child’s nose and use humidifiers to help your child breathe easier at night.

The flu

Flu symptoms are very specific and include high fever (usually lasting four to six days), sore aching muscles, generalized weakness, headache, pain behind the eyeballs, a sore throat and a hacking cough.

The uncomplicated flu lasts seven to ten days and does not respond to antibiotics. Treatment includes plenty of fluids, bed rest and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, headache and body aches. For coughs, try a mixture of honey and lemon (if older than 1 year), non-caffeine teas or an over the counter (OTC) cough suppressants containing DM (Dextromethorpan). Remember, to prevent Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal illness, never give aspirin to your child or adolescent with the flu.

How do I know if my child has developed bronchitis or pneumonia?

Bronchitis is an infection of the “bronchi.” These are the tubes that go from our airways into the lungs. Most cases of bronchitis in small children are caused by viruses, but a small number of cases can be bacterial. Uncomplicated viral bronchitis can start like a cold, but the main symptom is cough and not a runny nose. The child may or may not have a fever. The illness can last for about ten days, although the worst of the cough will occur in the first week. If the bronchitis is caused by a bacteria, then the fever will be higher and last longer and the child may have a chest pain when they cough as well. Children with bacterial bronchitis usually look sicker.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs themselves. As with bronchitis, the cause of pneumonia may be viral or bacterial. Children with bacterial pneumonia look sick. They usually have a high fever and a cough, although some cases actually cause stomach pain. This is when the infection is in one of the lower lobes of the lung.

Both bronchitis and pneumonia may be complications of the flu which can be very serious, especially in small infants.

When should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if the cough is worsening or your child is having difficulty breathing. Also call if a cough is accompanied by a very high fever or chest pain.

Be sure to call your pediatrician immediately if you suspect your infant (under 1 year old) has the flu, especially if he/she has a high fever and cough which persists for more than three days. NOTE: Any infant under 2 months with a fever (rectal temperature of 100.8 degrees or greater) must be seen.

If your older child has a high fever for more than five days, a worsening cough (with or without chest pain), a headache for more than five days or a headache which is getting worse or accompanied by a stiff neck, see a doctor.

Basic Veggie Soup

Canned soups are often over-processed and full of salt. This will take you mere minutes to make, and it’s downright good and healthy.

Quick Spinach-White Bean Soup

Ingredients1 c. chopped onion 1 c. chopped carrot 1 c. chopped celery 2 tsp. oil 3 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach ¾ c. uncooked tubetti or ditalini pasta ½ tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. dried basil ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 1/8 tsp. garlic powder 2 (15 oz.) cans Cannellini, Great Northern or white beans, rinsed and drainedDirectionsIn a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion, carrot and celery in oil for five minutes. Add chicken broth, spinach, pasta, oregano, basil, pepper and garlic powder. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans, and cover cooking saucepan for five more minutes.YieldNutrition

Mediterranean Tomato Soup with Rice

Ingredients2 cans (14.5 ounces each) gluten-free, low-sodium chicken broth, such as Swanson’s Natural Goodness 1 can (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, including juices 1/4 c diced fresh onion 1-1/2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh oregano, basil, marjoram and rosemary, plus extra for garnish 1/2 tsp. sugar 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste 1/4 c instant brown riceDirectionsCombine all the ingredients in a two-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Brimming with the fresh herb flavors of southern France, this recipe uses instant rice that slightly thickens the soup as it cooks and gives it body. If you don’t like chunks of tomato, puree the tomatoes in a blender before you cook them. Or, puree the entire soup with an immersion blender after it has simmered 20 minutes for an extra-smooth consistency.Yield4 servingsNutrition

Snowman Cookies

Craft delightful snowman cookies with this recipe.