Not sure what's causing your child to feel rundown? Check out these common symptoms of colds, the flu, and allergies along with helpful treatment for each problem.
It may be a cold if... your child is up and about, even if she has a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, a sore throat, and a cough. Symptoms tend to come on slowly and last no more than two weeks, says Sara Caldararo, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. If your child does have a fever, it's typically low-grade. Some kids may have mild aches, including headaches.
What to do: Make sure your child gets plenty of fluids and rest. Try a cool-mist humidifier to relieve congestion. Cold symptoms that last several weeks - especially if your child has a headache, a low-grade fever, and (for an older child) facial pain - may signal a sinus infection, which requires antibiotics.
Related: Bad Cough? Find Out if It's Whopping Cough or Croup... Plus How to Treat It
It may be the flu if... your child is listless - and grumpy. "They're miserable because they just feel so bad," says Carol Steltenkamp, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Kentucky. The flu comes on quickly, and symptoms include chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and a fever.
What to do: To reduce fever and relieve aches or pain, try giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen (both of which are considered safe for children over the age of 6 months). If you take your child to the pediatrician within 48 hours after symptoms start, he may prescribe an antiviral remedy that can decrease the flu's duration. If symptoms don't improve after 10 days, the fever continues to climb, or your child starts having trouble breathing or drinking enough fluids, call your doctor - she may have something more serious, such as pneumonia.
Related: Should You Get a Flu Shot? Learn About 4 Lifesaving Vaccines Adults Need
It may be allergies if... your child feels itchy in her eyes, nose, or both, and has nasal congestion and sneezing, but never a fever. Colds go away in seven to 14 days, but allergies can hang on indefinitely, especially if your child is sensitive to indoor allergens, like dust mites and mold.
What to do: Oral antihistamines, like Benadryl and Claritin, can usually provide some symptom relief. Head to your doctor to get a sense of how intense your kid's allergies are and ask about intranasal steroid nose sprays, such as Flonase, which can prevent allergy symptoms, says Derek Johnson, M.D., a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at Fair Oaks Medical Center in Fairfax, VA. "Use mattress and pillow encasements to shield your child from dust allergens, and wash bedding and stuffed toys in hot water to kill dust mites," he says. "Keep pets out of the bedroom and don't use humidifiers, which will only encourage mold and dust mite growth."
Related: 5 Possible Reasons for Why You Get Headaches
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