What's Going Around | RSV or Flu

A girl has her throat checked at a doctor's appointment.
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Is your child miserable with a cough and fever? How do you know if your child is battling influenza virus (flu) or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)? A significant difference between flu and RSV is the way symptoms begin. The flu usually starts with a high fever along with aches and pains. RSV starts as a cold, sometimes with a fever, that leads to coughing, fast breathing and wheezing.

In older children, RSV can resemble a bad cold. In babies, however, it’s sometimes a serious illness — particularly for those with asthma, or those who were born prematurely. Symptoms of RSV include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sometimes trouble breathing or respiratory distress

Call the pediatrician right away if your child shows any of these signs: high fever that lasts more than two days, rapid or difficult breathing, extreme irritability or decreased urination.


Generally, flu symptoms come on quickly and are much more severe than cold symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Exhaustion, fatigue and weakness
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort

Symptoms can also include: sneezing, sore throat and stuffy nose, however these aren’t as common. It’s important to call the doctor when you suspect flu if your child has asthma or diabetes.

When in Doubt, Head to Centra Care

Still worried and wondering? Again, RSV and flu symptoms can overlap, it can be tricky to tell the difference, so don’t diagnose your child on your own.

Centra Care has a quick influenza test, which can tell within minutes if you've got the flu. The earlier you are diagnosed can make a difference in how long it lasts or how severe it may become. Anti-viral medication is very effective in shortening the duration of flu, and all Centra Care locations carry this but you need to start the medication within 48 hours of symptom onset or it won't work - so don't wait too long before being seen for flu symptoms.

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