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Childhood cold or flu – do you know the difference?

It is the time of year when colds and flu are doing the rounds in schools and nurseries across mid Essex.

But as a parent how do you tell the difference?

Symptoms of a cold include a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, sneezing and a cough. Flu includes sudden fever, muscle aches, sweating, feeling exhausted and a dry or chesty cough. Although both illnesses share some of the same symptoms they are caused by different viruses.

Many people think flu is just a bad cold. It isn’t. Flu can cause serious complications and every year some children with flu become extremely ill. Many of these would have been protected if only they had received their free vaccination.

Those eligible include children aged two, three or four, as well as children in school years one and two. Older children with specific medical conditions, for example asthma or diabetes, should also be vaccinated. For younger children the vaccine is a nasal spray not an injection.

Vaccinating the majority of children can help stop flu circulating amongst the wider population, protecting - not just your own child, but people the child comes into contact with such as grandparents.

Dr Caroline Dollery, Chair of Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group says: “If your child is showing symptoms of a cold or flu, the best thing you can do is make sure they have lots of rest and fluids. Talk to the pharmacist about over the counter remedies. Antibiotics will not help.

Keep them home and away from friends or family members who are over 65, are pregnant or have a long-term condition so they do not pass it on. And if you need advice when the pharmacists are closed call 111 to talk to the NHS. You’ll be advised on the best course of action.”

For more information on colds and flu, including a symptoms checker visit NHS Choices www.nhs.uk. More information on staying well over winter is available by visiting the NHS Choices Stay Well.