How do you distinguish a common cold from the flu (influenza)?

When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it. “The first few days with a cough, fever and sore throat are early signs of influenza,” says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, CHOC’s director of pediatric infectious diseases. “Fever is very common. Probably 90 percent of children who have influenza will have a (high) fever.” What else should you look out for to identify this seasonal respiratory infection?

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose


It’s possible for your child to be on the winning team this flu season. “The best way to fight influenza is not to get it. All children older than 6 months and adults should receive the flu vaccine. It is safe and highly effective,” says Dr. Arrieta. What else could you do? Suggestions from Dr. Arrieta include washing one’s hands very carefully before and after taking care of young children, and avoiding close contact for long periods of time with people who have influenza or a respiratory illness.


“The only effective treatment that will shorten the course of the illness is anti-viral agents,” says Dr. Arrieta. The most familiar one is Tamiflu. It’s safe for children one year and older, and if necessary, is used in younger children. Alternatively, parents can administer over-the-counter remedies like acetaminophen for fever or discomfort, says Dr. Arrieta. One thing Dr. Arrieta does NOT recommend: decongestants. “They can make children drowsy and limit the parent’s ability to evaluate them if they’re not feeling well.”


The flu shot is safe and up to 70 percent protective. Also safe and effective is the intranasal form of the vaccine, which shouldn’t be given to children less than two years of age and with asthma or a history of wheezing, says Dr. Arrieta.


  • Number of days severe flu symptoms may last: 7 Days
  • Number of colds Americans suffer yearly: 1 Billion
  • Age recommended to begin getting yearly flu shots: 6 Months

Meet Dr. Arrieta - CHOC Infectious Disease Specialist

Dr. Antonio Arrieta has worked at CHOC since 1991. He is the director of pediatric infectious diseases and director of infectious disease clinical research, and specializes in the treatment of serious community acquired and nosocomial infections. Dr. Arrieta completed his fellowship at UCI Memorial/Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach and his pediatrics residency at Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Arrieta’s philosophy of care: “My most important message for the community is prevention mainly through timely immunization, and also by observing healthy habits and handwashing.”

Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru

Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Dr. Antonio Arrieta

“Herd Immunity” Protects Everyone Against Disease

When most people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the virus lacks a host and will eventually go away because there are so few susceptible people left to infect. This is known as “herd immunity.”

Unless society eliminates a disease, it’s important to keep immunizing people. If the protection given by a vaccination is removed, more and more people will become infected and spread diseases to others. In time, diseases that today are almost unknown and rare in the United States, such as polio, could return.

Mom and dad at the park with infant daughter

The best way to fight the flu is not to get it. Learn how to become a “Germ Buster.”

Kids can become “GERMBUSTERS” when they learn how to protect themselves against germs when someone coughs or sneezes. In this video, child life specialist Liz Bande and friends discuss the importance of proper hand washing and figure out how easily germs are spread through a fun glitter experiment. Liz also demonstrates the best way to teach your kids to cough or sneeze to avoid the spread of germs.

Remember, the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands.

Who Needs a Flu Vaccine?

Practically everyone. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everybody 6 months and older. That includes healthy kids, as well as those with medical conditions.

And it also includes you, Mom, especially if you are pregnant. Did you know the flu vaccine will protect you and your baby now — and your baby for the first few months of life? Learn more in this informative Q and A with one of our infectious disease specialists.

Cute little girl holding up her finger

CHOC Radio Podcast: Childhood Vaccinations

Dr. Antonio Arrieta in Seacrest Studio

To ensure maximum protection against diseases, children should receive vaccinations at the correct, recommended age, a CHOC infectious disease specialist tells Research 360,° a podcast highlighting research at the hospital.

In this segment, Dr. Antonio Arrieta discusses proper timing of vaccinations, dispels myths surrounding vaccinations, and details his current research at CHOC. Listen in to hear more about childhood vaccinations.

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