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Flu or Not? Your Child and Influenza Lookalikes

The flu affects millions of people year-round. Even though December through March is typically peak flu season, the flu isn’t the only illness that can affect your child during the winter months. If your child is sick, take a look at some of the other common issues that can mimic the flu.


Before learning about what isn’t the flu, it’s helpful to learn about the most common influenza symptoms. While these can vary in number and severity, the flu typically includes:

  • Fast onset. Even though the flu virus is incubating inside of its host, the symptoms may seem sudden. Your child may go to school feeling fine and come home feeling sick.
  • Fever. Most flu patients experience a fever that lasts from 3 to 4 days (sometimes longer).
  • Aches. Muscle aches with the flu are often strong or extremely noticeable.
  • Fatigue. The flu can cause serious fatigue, making it hard for your child to get through the day without napping.
  • Stuffy/runny nose. Nasal symptoms are possible but aren’t always present with the flu.
  • Respiratory discomfort. Your child may experience chest discomfort or coughing.
  • Sore throat. Like a runny/stuffy nose, this sometimes is (but sometimes isn’t) common with the flu.
  • Headache. Your child may experience a headache with the flu.

Never self-diagnosis the flu based on common symptoms. Knowing what to look out for is a step towards getting your child help. But you should always consult a medical professional for a diagnosis and treatment. Read on to learn about other illnesses that may share flu symptoms.


Like the flu, mononucleosis (often referred to as mono) is a viral infection. As such, it does not respond to antibiotics. Along with a viral cause, the flu and mono also have other similarities. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Along with these flu-like symptoms, mono can also cause some of its own issues. These include a skin rash, swollen tonsils, or swollen spleen. Again, like the flu, only a qualified medical professional can diagnose and treat mono.


Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, is an often-uncomfortable illness that can start with either a virus or bacteria. If your child has bacterial sinusitis, antibiotics can help your child to get well. Common symptoms that patients and parents often confuse with the flu may include:

  • Stuffy nose. While this isn’t always present or severe with the flu, it’s a noticeable symptom of a sinus infection.
  • Headache. A sinusitis headache is often different from the flu version. A sinus infection often causes pain and pressure around the eyes or on the forehead.
  • Cough or sneezing. Sinusitis is often the result of a cold. These cold symptoms may stick around during a sinus infection.

These symptoms can last for days to weeks. If your child has persistent symptoms which last longer than 12 weeks, they may have chronic sinusitis. Unlike an acute sinus infection, the chronic variety may require an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist for treatment.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is, as the name implies, a respiratory infection. Even though people of all ages can develop this illness, it’s most common in infants and very young children. Infection typically takes between 4 and 6 days after exposure. The primary symptoms include:

  • Runny nose. Again, like some other viral respiratory illnesses, both the flu and RSV share this symptom.
  • Wheezing. While flu patients may experience this symptom on occasion, it’s common with RSV.
  • Fever. Both the flu and RSV can cause your child to run a fever.
  • Coughing. As RSV is a respiratory infection, coughing is a primary symptom.

RSV doesn’t require antibiotics and typically goes away on its own. But your child still requires medical attention. This virus can quickly get serious, making treatment necessary.

Is your child feeling flu-ish? Contact Premiere Urgent Care Centers of California, Inc., for more information.

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