This is the time of the year when we see an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms such as fevers, coughs, congestion and body aches. The flu can be miserable for children and can easily spread throughout the family so it is definitely important that parents seek medical attention for children when these symptoms are present, especially if the symptoms are getting worse.
But is it the flu or something else? Many parents are surprised to learn that the illness their child is suffering from is not actually the flu at all, but an entirely different illness with symptoms that “mimic” the flu. Because these illnesses are often treated differently than the flu, it’s important to recognize the differences.
Many of the symptoms of strep throat are very similar to the flu, such as a fever, body aches, cough and some nose irritation. Along with these symptoms, children with strep will also have a sore throat and inflamed tonsils. Often you can see the redness and swelling in the throat. In some cases, white patches or spots will also appear in the throat area. Fortunately, since Strep is caused by bacteria there are good treatments that act fast – allowing your child to get back to their normal routine in a hurry.
Mononucleosis is an illness with flu-like symptoms and an incubation period of up to 4 to 6 weeks. It is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a very common virus that most children are exposed to as they grow up. Symptoms include headaches, body aches, swollen tonsils and abdominal pain. Doctors will need to run at least one of several tests in order to clearly diagnosis mono. Treatment includes lots of rest and some medication for pain.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus is found in both children and adults and causes infection in the lungs and breathing passages. It is one of the most common causes of respiratory illness in young children. RSV symptoms are very similar to flu symptoms, including a high fever, runny nose and a cough. You’ll also notice that your child seems to have difficulty breathing and may refuse to eat as they normally would. This is a highly contagious illness that will quickly spread at home and at school. RSV is much more serious in infants and young children.
This is another illness that affects the respiratory passages in children, especially in babies during their first two years of life. Coincidentally, most cases of bronchiolitis are caused by RSV, but can be caused by the flu or even a cold. Bronchiolitis is the inflammation and infection of the small airways that lead to the lungs called bronchioles. Children with bronchiolitis will have a stuffy or runny nose, a cough and a fever, which is why it is often mistaken for the flu. While most cases of bronchiolitis will simply run their course, it can get worse in some situations. It’s best to have a doctor diagnose and treat the illness as soon as possible.
Parainfluenza is another name for a group of four viruses known as the Human Parainfluenza Viruses (HPIVs). These four viruses can lead to different types of illnesses and symptoms throughout the body. Some of the most common symptoms include cough, fever, runny nose, chest pain, sore throat and wheezing in some cases. Because it is a viral infection, there isn’t always a specific treatment for Parainfluenza. In most cases, symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
If your child is showing flu-like symptoms, bring them to AllKids Urgent Care so we can diagnose the illness and give you guidance on how to best treat it. We are open every day until 10:00pm at both our Gilbert and Mesa locations.