Both the common cold and the flu (influenza) are caused by viruses for which there is no definitive treatment.
Colds are typically mild and do not require a visit to the doctor. Medications such as Tylenol or Advil/Motrin can be used to reduce any pain or fever that occurs. Cold and cough medicines are not very effective and are not recommended in children younger than 2 years.
The flu can be quite severe. Medication for flu such as Tamiflu does NOT cure the flu. At best it reduces the symptoms of the flu by 1-2 days if given with the first 24-48 hours from the start of the illness, and therefore is only indicated for people at very high risk for complications from flu, including children younger than 2 years old and people with conditions such as asthma or immune suppression. Patients with these conditions should be seen in the office in the first 1-2 days of fever onset.
You should call our office for a same-day appointment if your child experiences persistently high fever (> 101 for more than 3 days), appears to have difficulty breathing, or is unable to keep down fluids such as water or Pedialyte. Your child’s pediatrician can determine what the cause of the symptoms is and if any additional treatment is appropriate.
The most effective treatments for any viral illness including both colds and the flu are drinking fluids and getting lots of rest. Drinking fluids prevent dehydration while the body is trying to recover from illness and the body heals best when resting.