Too many times I've heard—and said—“It's a virus.” But the common cold can be caused by more than 100 different viruses. And the flu is a set of somewhat similar, but often more severe, symptoms caused by the influenza A or B virus. Soon it will be possible to know exactly which virus your child has and what to expect when expectorating (OK, what to expect when coughing). I'm the chief medical officer of Scanadu (scanadu.com), where we're creating cool tools parents can use. The first of these, debuting in 2013, is called the Scanadu SCOUT: a palm-size tool to explore and learn about how your child's body works. With a simple touch, it can SCOUT oxygen levels, heart-rate variability, pulse transit time, skin surface temperature (and more). The device is linked to your smartphone, where the info is effortlessly stored and interpreted.
When you do have a medical question and your doc isn't available (read: 3 a.m. or Saturday afternoon), you can submit a question from your phone, tablet, or laptop 24/7 to HealthTap (healthtap.com), where more than 14,000 doctors are providing quick answers for free. For a road map when your child is sick, check out the Vicks cold-symptom forecaster (vicks.com). For example, day one is likely to bring complaints of a sore throat, whereas day four's symptoms are more likely to be congestion and coughing.