Flu vs Coronavirus in Kids | How Parents Can Prep for an Unprecedented Season. I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Genentech to write about the signs, symptoms and treatments available for pediatric influenza. All opinions are my own.
Flu vs Coronavirus in Kids | How Parents Can Prep for an Unprecedented Season
Fall, my favorite time of the year. It’s a season for falling leaves, cooler weather, pumpkin everything…and the flu.
I know, I know. I’d rather talk about something happier too. But the reality is, 2020 has thrown us a lot of unprecedented surprises our way. And with health on everyone’s minds this back-to-school season, the truth is the flu is not going to disappear just because of a COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the possible combination of coronavirus AND influenza at the same time has a lot of parents on edge.
OK, it’s me. I’m on edge.
Pre-COVID, the flu was the #1 cause of death in the U.S., with 11 million children affected just in 2018-2019 alone. Having seen firsthand how sick children were in the hospital with influenza, I can only imagine what 2020 will bring. With a pandemic in our laps, we as parents need to take action, be prepared and brace ourselves for what’s to come.
Flu vs coronavirus, what do parents need to know when it comes to our kids’ health? Today I’m answering parents’ 5 most concerning questions regarding COVID-19 and flu with help from some of the country’s best pediatricians, and how we can best prepare for the season ahead. Plus, scroll down to find out how your opinion on the upcoming flu season could win you 1 of 10 $100 Visa gift cards.
Why is this flu season different than any other season?
In one word, pandemic. For the first time in recent history, we are dealing with a potential deadly virus on top of a potential deadly virus. And for our kids, that is a potentially scary combination.
Delayed treatment of care is a real possibility with the fear of COVID-19 out there. That poses a problem when antiviral medications are most effective when administered within the first 48 hours of symptom onset. Delayed care results in increased risk of flu complications in young kids. In fact, 41% of children with influenza experience flu-related complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures, secondary bacterial infections and exacerbation of existing conditions like asthma.
And that’s before coronavirus was around.
Influenza symptoms vs Coronavirus symptoms
Keep calm. Hug a pumpkin. That’s what I keep telling myself. How do we know if it’s coronavirus vs flu? Seeing your child sick can be heartbreaking for parents. While we know our children best, being aware and recognizing the signs and symptoms of flu and COVID-19 can help us prepare and quickly detect before complications arise.
Pediatric Flu Symptoms
Influenza can be a sneaky diagnosis, mostly because it can escalate from common cold to emergency illness quickly. Familiarizing yourself with flu symptoms now can make a difference for early detection and treatment. Note your child may experience only a few or all of these flu symptoms:
- High Fever (can appear quickly!)
- Body Aches
- Deep Cough
- Sore Throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Fatigue (Tiredness)
With what little we do know about the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes it harder to pin down exact signs and symptoms related to this illness. In my opinion, that makes the virus more dangerous. But here’s what we do know:
- A person is contagious with COVID-19 up to two weeks BEFORE the onset of symptoms.
- Many COVID-19 symptoms are similar/overlap with the flu symptoms above.
- However, many pediatric doctors are seeing more abstract COVID symptoms for kids (like rash, abdominal pain, loss of taste/smell) than compared to flu.
- Overall, kids don’t seem to look “as sick” when compared with influenza patients, but that doesn’t mean COVID is less deadly.
Can my child get both the flu and coronavirus?
In short, yes. Unfortunately, influenza and COVID-19 viruses do not discriminate when it comes to our children, making them highly vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses. The trends show that teens are more apt to cause the spread of COVID-19, whereas elementary age kids are more apt to spread influenza. But yes, pediatric doctors have seen both in children.
The only way of knowing for sure to confirm positive tests for both viruses.
Should my child get a flu vaccine during COVID-19?
According to the pediatric experts, yes. The flu vaccine is the #1 preventative measure you can take to protect yourself against influenza. It takes 2 weeks for a flu vaccine to take full effect, so early prevention is key.
And for our kids who are more susceptible to getting the flu (especially those children who are attending elementary school), prevention can also protect your child’s immune system. A stronger immune system means stronger ability to protect against other sicknesses during this season.
What can we do to prepare for this unprecedented flu season?
The flu season isn’t new to most parents. But during these times of uncertainty, every bit of preparation can help make a difference when it comes to our family’s health. Early preparation for the 2020 flu season is going to be important for all parents. And with a coronavirus pandemic, there are even more ways we can be prepared for the months ahead.
- Know your doctor’s policy – With COVID-19 and flu this season, office protocol may have changed for your child’s doctor visits. Is your doctor doing only telehealth? What should you do if your child has a fever? Will your child need to be tested for COVID too? What criteria would be used to determine a hospital visit? Call now so you can understand your pediatrician’s process for handling flu/coronavirus before your child gets sick.
- Make a family health plan – Every family has to weigh their own risks vs. rewards when it comes to health. Is my child sick enough to leave the house? Go to the hospital? At what point do I make a doctor appointment? Who will go with my child? What do I do if my child is sent home from school? Talking with your family regarding your health plan will help to ease stress and expectations going into the season. But while having a plan is a good idea, being flexible with that plan is also a great idea.
- Get a flu shot – It’s the #1 pediatrician recommended preventative measure against influenza.
- Remember that the flu does have treatment options – Unlike COVID-19, flu can be directly treated. But early detection is key. Familiarizing yourself with pediatric influenza symptoms (especially early signs like fever) and antiviral treatments (such as Tamiflu®, Xofluza™, Rapivab™) and getting prompt antiviral treatment within the first 48 hours of onset can reduce the risk of complications.
- Stock up on flu essentials – Don’t wait to run to the store when your child gets sick, especially during this pandemic. Now is the time to have everything you need to care for your child’s flu symptoms at home. Check out my flu must-haves list that every parent should have on-hand before going into influenza season. From fluids to over-the-counter fever reducers, saline sprays and more, there are a ton of great tips to prepare your child for flu season.
- Practice healthy habits – Your kids are probably already well versed in good hygiene thanks to coronavirus, but now is a good time to go over flu prevention with tips like good handwashing, getting good sleep, eating a balanced diet, and decreasing stress levels.
- Continue to practice COVID-19 safety measures – These months seem hard, especially for our kids. But until we have a COVID-19 vaccine, we shouldn’t let down our guard. Continue practicing social distancing of 6 feet or more, wearing masks/protective face coverings, handwashing, and enforcing school/e-learning protocol.
Kids Influenza Survey (Enter to Win a $100 Visa Gift Card!)
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with pediatric influenza, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.
The survey contains links to external sites. Any such links are provided as a convenience and for educational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or legal advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization.