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September usually marks the start of flu season, and with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, it’s crucial to be vigilant about your family’s health. The challenge, however, is being able to tell the difference between the flu, the common cold, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19, since all have similar symptoms. So if your child has a fever, sore throat, cough or chills, what should you do?
Find out when to seek medical care, whether it’s possible to have multiple infections at the same time, and the importance of getting the flu vaccine.
They are triggered by different viruses.
If your child has any of these symptoms, you will want to discuss with your pediatrician whether testing is recommended; for example, if you have any high-risk family members at home. Regardless of whether or not you think this is COVID-19, if your child is having difficulty breathing, is unresponsive, or is unable to eat or drink, seek immediate medical care.
Unfortunately not without testing, and that is the challenge. With COVID-19, it appears that symptoms last longer and some individuals may experience fatigue and anosmia—a loss of smell and taste—that can persist for weeks. But for the most part, only testing can determine whether you have coronavirus or not.
There have been some reports about people being infected with two concurrently. We do know that all of these viruses have the potential to shed for a long time, so it may be true that someone could test positive for both COVID-19 and RSV, but RSV is the only one causing symptoms. There’s not enough research or cases to truly understand these scenarios yet.
It’s unlikely that just because you got the flu or RSV you’re more at risk for getting coronavirus or some other viral illness. What you’re exposed to is what you get. With any viral illness, you can develop complications such as bacterial pneumonia, which isn’t spread person to person but is caused by your own bacteria.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America all recommend that everyone over 6 months of age get the flu vaccine every year. This is especially important in the setting of COVID-19.
All the things we have been doing—washing our hands, physically distancing, wearing masks—are great for preventing the spread of the flu as well. The flu vaccine may not prevent you from getting the flu, but it does an amazing job at helping to prevent you from getting very ill, especially in younger kids who are at high risk for having more severe complications with the flu. Why not add another layer of protection by getting the flu vaccine? We should be doing everything we can to protect our children.
As soon as it’s available, you should get it. Every year, the flu vaccine is created so that the immunity lasts for the whole season. So, if it’s being offered at your clinic, don’t delay. If you wait too long, you run the risk of forgetting or, even worse, getting the flu before you’re immunized.
This isn’t necessary unless your child has a fever or is feeling unwell. These side effects associated with the vaccines do not typically last beyond 24 to 48 hours. If they do, please have your child seen by their pediatrician as the persistent fever is unlikely to be vaccine related.
There have been many studies that have shown the flu shot can be given at the same time as the COVID vaccine without problems. If both are available, just get them done the same day.
The main takeaway is that we should all be doing our best to look after our children, our families and each other. Whether that’s getting the flu and COVID vaccines, washing our hands, maintaining physical distancing or wearing our masks, there are tangible measures we can take to protect children in our community.