What's Your Cold and Flu IQ?
Pediatric health experts answer parents' top 10 questions about sneezy, sniffly cold-weather maladies.
2. Will the flu shot give my child the flu?
"No. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine," says Smith.
The injectable vaccine is made from inactivated or dead virus. The inhaled nasal spray flu vaccine is a live weakened virus that can reproduce itself in the nose and throat, but "it doesn't cause the flu," says Smith. "It can give you a little bit of a runny nose and can lead to wheezing in some people who have asthma, so we usually don't give the nasal spray to adults or children with asthma."
If you're between the ages of 2 and 49 and otherwise healthy, you can ask for the nasal flu vaccine instead of the shot, says Rotbart. This option might be more comfortable for your child.
3. Does being out in cold weather cause colds?
"It's not totally a myth," says Rotbart. While catching a chill does not seem to increase your chance of getting a cold, extreme weather conditions may play a role. For example, researchers found that people who soaked their feet in near-freezing water for 20 minutes were more likely than others to catch a cold. But most research does not support the idea that being cold causes you to get sick. More influenza and cold viruses circulate during the winter months, "their preferred season," says Rotbart, which is a better reason so many of us catch a cold or the flu.
During the winter months, kids also tend to spend time indoors, where they are in close contact with others and can easily transmit germs and contaminate classroom surfaces.
4. Is it true you should starve a cold and feed a fever?
"No. That's nonsense," says Rotbart. "There is no medical condition where starving anything is healthy for you. We encourage kids to eat and drink to the best of their ability." Full meals aren't necessary if your child doesn't feel like eating. However, hydration is crucial. "Drinking water is mandatory," says Rotbart.
5. When is my child too sick for school?
Two issues are at work here, says Rotbart: "What's best for your child? And what's best for everybody else in school? My threshold for parents is if their kid has a fever of more than 100 degrees, he or she should not go to school." Most schools will not let kids with a fever attend, Smith adds.
Perhaps the most important reason to keep your child home is to help prevent colds and the flu from spreading. Children who have obvious cold symptoms -- coughing, sneezing, dripping nose -- should be kept at home for the benefit of the teachers and other children, says Rotbart. "Kids rarely fake this."