"I think," I tell my husband, "that he has THE FLU." Dun dun dun DUNN!
I then immediately come down with guilt for not schlepping my 12-year-old son to get the flu shot out of sheer laziness on my part.
"Maybe it is just a cold," says my husband. "And who cares what it is?"
And then hit me. As long as the kids are sick but not overly sick; why should I care if it is the flu or a cold? Just because the government has released more Tamiflu; and flu season has been "nasty and deadly and normal"? This does not mean we are in a pandemic, or that I should panic, because that's the nature of influenza. (I don't do well in pandemic season, one day I will write about our SARS experience that left me scarred forever).
So, I set off to find the differences between the common cold and flu:
Causes: a viral infection with many subsets (which is why there is "no cure for the common cold")
Symptoms: runny nose, may start with a sore throat, congestion, fevers in young children more often than in adults, or no fever
Treatments: TLC, liquids, chicken soup, rest, sleep, moisturizer for the sore nose, over-the-counter pain killers
Causes: Flu viruses circulate early November to March, usually peaking around late November to January
Symptoms: Comes on quickly, headaches, aches and pains, fever, exhaustion, fatigue, occasionally a stuffy nose and sore throat, cough which can persist and become more severe, diarrhea and vomiting is more common in kids
Treatments: TLC, liquids, chicken soup, rest, staying home from work/school, over-the-counter painkillers
Colds are annoying and can last a while, but overall influenza can be more serious -- especially for those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. So I asked my favourite tweetrician (I think he made up that word) pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Flanders, what should a parent do?
His answer (in a series of tweets, thanks to a Rogers outage), said that while some symptoms may overlap, the flu can really set someone back and can develop into a super-infection. So it is important to take the time to recuperate.
"It's really important, if one has the flu, to not go to school, not go to work, stay home and recover," he said. "In other words, you might have a mild case of the flu but pass it on to a newborn baby or a frail old person and there can be life-threatening consequences."
He says that frequent hand-washing, good cough hygiene and other common sense measures should be used to limit the spread. And of course, the flu vaccine is a "safe and effective prevention" tool.
After studying the symptoms and my son, I have decided he has a very bad cold with a fever. But unless he gets much worse or his fever lasts a few more days I won't take him to the doctor and risk infecting people in the waiting room.
In the meantime, my hands are cracking from the amount of hand washing I have been doing.
Do you worry about the flu?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about when Anderson Cooper got involved with the "mommy wars".