By Dr. Gary Mirkin

Ask the Expert: How Do I Know if it is the Cold or Flu?


Local pediatrician and CEO of Allied Pediatrics of New York Gary Mirkin, MD, explains the differences between the common cold and the flu.

How do I know if it is the cold or the flu?

girl with thermometerFiguring out whether your child has the flu can be difficult. The common cold is associated with a runny nose, congestion, cough and occasionally a fever. It may also initially begin with a sore throat. Influenza usually causes fatigue, body and muscle aches, sore throat, congestion, cough, and fever.

Obviously there is a lot of overlap in these symptoms. Your pediatrician will know when the influenza virus is circulating in the community and will usually be able to tell you if your child has the flu or the common cold without doing any further testing. The flu is usually associated with more severe symptoms—a higher fever, greater fatigue and muscle ache, etc.

For children at higher risk of complications from the flu, or whose family members are at higher risk, testing may be necessary. There are medications to prevent the flu and shorten its course, however most healthy children do not require treatment.

While the antiviral medications are effective when started very early in the course of illness, there can often be unpleasant side effects. More importantly, most influenza can be prevented with the flu vaccine. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all children between six months and 18 years be immunized annually to avoid serious illness and complications.


Gary Mirkin, MD, is a practicing pediatrician in Great Neck and the CEO of Allied Pediatrics of New York. Allied Pediatrics of New York, PLLC (APNY) is a primary care pediatric group comprised of more than 90 pediatricians at 25 offices in Nassau, Orange, Queens, Suffolk, and Westchester counties.


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