By Dr. Hebah Pranckun, pediatrician at Wellstar Avalon Health Park
Does my child have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19? During typical flu seasons, this question has often had an easy answer. This year, the question has become much more daunting for parents with the added confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you make a wise decision whether to keep your child home, send them to school, or isolate them? While this may seem like murky water, Wellstar Avalon Health Park Pediatrician Dr. Hebah Pranckun shared health tips to help parents make a safe decision.
COVID-19 and the flu share many overlapping symptoms, which can make it difficult to discern or diagnose. However, two symptoms stand out for COVID-19: a loss of sense of taste and/or smell, though these are not the most common symptoms of the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the flu and COVID-19 may have a variety of symptoms, children with COVID-19 most commonly experience a cough with or without fever. Compared with children with the flu, research has also revealed those diagnosed with COVID-19 more commonly reported symptoms such as headache, body ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and chest pain.
According to the CDC, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) can cause different parts of the body to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Many children with MIS-C may carry the virus that causes COVID-19, though MIS-C may also be present in some flu cases for children.
Because of the significant overlap in symptoms, it is important to consider additional risk factors to determine if your child may have the flu or COVID-19. First, determine if you or your family have had any known recent contact with anyone who has had either one of these illnesses. Next, identify any travel to or time spent in areas with increased spread or high prevalence of COVID-19. Knowing these two risk factors can provide important information to medical professionals for further treatment.
What should you do if your child shows any concerning symptoms? Until the possibility of contagious spread is ruled out, your child should stay home from school or child care. Contact your local pediatrician who can help assess the symptoms, diagnose the illness with an examination and appropriate testing, and provide helpful guidance on the next steps.
Remember, prevention is key! All family members 2 years of age and older should always wear a mask in public. Encourage frequent handwashing. Participate in social distancing. Now more than ever, it is crucial for everyone 6 months of age and older to also get vaccinated against the flu to help them stay healthy.