Common Symptoms in Children – COVID-19, Colds, and the Flu

Young mother helping her sick daughter blow her nose

If your child is feeling unwell, it can be difficult to figure out what might be causing it. Many common viruses today share similar symptoms, but there are some key differences that can help guide you to a possible cause. COVID-19, the common cold, and influenza (or ‘flu’) all start with viral infections that spread easily amongst people, especially children.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of each can help you get the care your child needs. Here, we’ll discuss how to recognize COVID-19, the flu, or a common cold.

Common COVID-19 Symptoms in Children

COVID-19 is an upper respiratory illness that looks similar to other viral infections. While they are generally the same, COVID-19 symptoms tend to be milder in children than in adults.2

Common COVID-19 symptoms in kids can include:2,3,8

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Nausea or vomiting

When comparing the flu versus COVID-19 in kids, many of the symptoms overlap. With this, it’s important to have your child tested for both viruses if they are sick.2

Common Flu Symptoms in Children

The flu is caused by one of three types of viruses, known as influenza types A, B, and C. Like COVID-19, the flu mainly impacts the lungs, but symptoms can affect the whole body. Most of the time, children who get the flu are sick for one week or less.1

Some common flu symptoms in kids can include:1,4

  • Fever, which can reach between 103° and 105° F
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Cough that can become severe 
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue

In some cases, children may also have gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Flu symptoms tend to resolve after around one week, but tiredness can last up to one month.4

Common Cold Symptoms in Children

Every year, thousands of Canadians catch a cold (also known as an upper respiratory infection), and this is no exception for children.8 In fact, the common cold leads to the most missed school days every year.5 

While uncomfortable, cold symptoms tend to be milder than flu or COVID-19 symptoms. Common kids’ cold symptoms can include:5,6

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Low-grade fever between 99.6° to 100.3° F
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches

Comparing COVID-19, the Flu, and the Common Cold

Need a quick chart that summarizes the common symptoms in children? Here, we’ve provided a table of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold.1-6 While it is important to know the symptoms of these illnesses, to be sure what is making your child sick, consult a healthcare professional.

Symptoms COVID-19 Flu Common Cold
Headache Sometimes Common Sometimes, with congestion
Fever/Chills Common Common, fever can be high Rare, fever can be low-grade
Cough Common Sometimes, can range from mild to moderate Common
Runny/Stuffy nose Rare Sometimes Common
Sore throat Rare Common Common
Body aches Sometimes Common Sometimes
Fatigue/Exhaustion Common Common Sometimes
Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhea Sometimes Sometimes Rare

Infant’s and Children’s TYLENOL® product are indicated for the temporary symptomatic relief of mild to moderate pain and fever. To be sure any TYLENOL® product is right for you, always read and follow the label.

IMPORTANT: Take ONLY ONE medicine at a time containing acetaminophen.


  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. COVID in Babies and Kids: Symptoms and Prevention. June 22, 2022. Accessed from:
  2. Yasuhara J, et al. Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 in children: A systematic review. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2020;55(10):2565-2575. Accessed from:
  3. Kumar, V. Influenza in Children. Indian J Pediatr. 2017;84(2):139-143. Accessed from:
  4. Stanford Medicine. Common Cold in Children. Accessed from:
  5. Troullos E, Baird L, Jayawardena S. Common Cold Symptoms in Children: Results of an Internet-Based Surveillance Program. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(6):e144. Accessed from:
  6. BC Centre for Disease Control. Symptoms. May 12, 2022. Accessed from:
  7. BC Centre for Disease Control. COVID-19 illness in children. January 4, 2022. Accessed from:
  8. Government of Canada. Flu (influenza): FluWatch surveillance. March 14, 2023. Accessed from:


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