With flu season upon us amid the coronavirus pandemic, parents with children feeling under the weather may find themselves confused and anxious about symptoms. Many symptoms of seasonal influenza and coronavirus/COVID-19 are the same.
COVID-19 and flu can cause:
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
One frequent symptom of COVID-19 that doesn’t usually come with flu is loss of sense of taste or smell.
Emergency warning signs of any viral infection include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face. The blue tone may be more apparent in the lips, gums, around the eyes and nails in those with dark skin.
If a child has these symptoms, contact a health care provider right away. It can be difficult to tell based solely on symptoms whether an illness is COVID-19 or flu. Confirmation needs to come from a nasopharyngeal swab test.
Who’s most at risk for COVID-19 and flu?
Anyone can get COVID-19 or the flu. Because flu and COVID-19 are two different diseases, it’s possible to have both at the same time.
While typically kids appear to get through COVID-19 more easily than adults, some children have become seriously ill and died. In addition, the flu can hit children under age 5 particularly hard, especially those younger than 2.
A flu shot is crucial
This year it’s more important than ever for children ages 6 months and older to get a flu shot or nasal flu vaccine. Even though the flu vaccine is not always 100% effective, it can lessen symptoms and help the child avoid severe illness or hospitalization. We don’t yet know how the two viruses contracted at the same time will affect a child, so taking any available preventive steps is crucial.
Reviewed by Kristina A. Bryant, M.D., hospital epidemiologist for Norton Children’s Hospital
|Signs and Symptoms||COVID-19||Cold||Influenza||Allergies|
|Fever||Common||Rare||Usually; lasts 3 to 4 days||No|
|Aches||Sometimes||Slight||Usually; often severe||No|
|Chest discomfort, cough||Common||Mild to moderate; hacking cough||Common; can be severe||Sometimes|
|Shortness of breath||When serious||Rare||Rare||Sometimes|
|New loss of taste or smell||Common||No||No||No|