As the United States gets closer and closer each day to half a million people affected by COVID-19, it has become a reality that we may know someone who has been affected, tested for, or been around someone with the virus. As we all know, in a matter of months, it has changed the way we and our families live.
It is inevitable that you may feel anxiety if your child begins having a runny nose or a cough. While there is still a great deal to learn from how COVID-19 may affect children, scientists have identified certain features that may help differentiate what may be allergies versus influenza (The Flu) vs COVID-19. And while there may certainly be some overlap, we would like to share some differences so you, as a parent, can be prepared to make a decision.
Itchy and/or watery eyes? Sneezing? Forehead headache? Watery nose? Same symptoms each year? This is most likely allergies. Your healthcare provider may find certain features that point that direction such as puffiness of the eyelids, swelling inside the nose, drainage on the back of the throat, or what we call postnasal drip. Many of these symptoms can be easily treated with over the counter medications such as cetirizine or loratadine. Just keep in mind that sensitization to allergens usually occurs after two years of age, meaning it would be rare for a child younger than that to develop allergies.
Low grade fever, mild wet cough, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose? Your child is still playful and active? This is most likely a URI or a common cold. Unlike the flu and COVID-19, common cold symptoms are a lot milder. While children may be a bit fatigued, it will never be as severe as with flu or COVID-19. They rarely will have muscle aches and shortness of breath from a common cold. Simple measures like preservative free saline for the nose and a good amount of hydration should be enough to treat this, and your child should start feeling better in a few days.
Distinguishing between the Flu vs COVID-19 can get tricky, especially given that they both have coincide in the same time of year. If your child has been vaccinated for Influenza, then it may be easier since your child may have some sort of protection or immunity to Influenza. If your child has received all the other vaccinations recommended by the CDC, your child may have protection against pneumonia, which is the most common complication in both Influenza and COVID-19.
Both Flu and COVID-19 can cause fever, shortness of breath, body aches and sore throat. However, the symptoms do not improve quickly with COVID-19 and seem to be more severe than with the Flu. A minor difference is that the flu will cause stuffy nose or runny nose, while in COVID-19, that seems to be more rare. A major difference is that the Flu may cause a wet sounding cough, similar to common colds, while COVID-19 typically has a dry, hacking, severe cough.
We acknowledge that these symptoms can be confusing. That is why at Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care we have taken great measures to provide the best medical care possible for your child, following recommendations by the CDC and the local health department. We are available for in-person visits in one of our 13 clinics in San Antonio, New Braunfels and Garland area or via telemedicine for COVID-19 screening.
Stay safe. Keep washing your hands and wearing a mask in public. Together we can beat this!