Parental challenge – Does your child have COVID-19, flu, cold or something else?

September 25, 2020 | by Uzma Muneer, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

This blog was originally posted in 2020. Some information may be out of date. For the latest updates on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support, visit

We’re entering flu season. Kids will get sick just like they always have, but this year is different since we’re also contending with the coronavirus.

Since COVID-19 symptoms overlap with symptoms of other common illnesses like colds or the flu, kids with symptoms of COVID-19 may actually be ill with something else. It is common for young children to have up to eight respiratory illnesses, or colds, every year.

Unfortunately, there is no symptom or set of symptoms that only occurs in children diagnosed with COVID-19. So, if your child gets sick this fall or winter, how can you rule out COVID-19?

In a common cold, children may have:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches

With a common cold, children likely will not have:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In children, cough and/or fever has been the most frequently reported symptom of COVID-19. Other symptoms of COVID-19 in children may include fatigue, headache, nasal congestion, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle aches, GI issues, nausea or vomiting, or poor appetite.

A fever could also be a sign of strep throat or the flu. A cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat or nasal congestion may be present in children with chronic conditions like asthma or allergies.

Parents worry about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), but this illness, although serious, is not common. Symptoms of MIS-C include a persistent, prolonged fever, skin rash, red eyes, lips and tongue and swollen hands and feet. 

While children with a COVID-19 infection are less likely to develop severe illness compared with adults, children are still at risk of developing severe illness and complications from COVID-19. 

There are children who are infected with the coronavirus and don’t develop any symptoms. These children can spread the virus to others who are at risk of complications. Families should take precautions to help limit exposures, including wearing masks in public, frequent handwashing and physical distancing.

Learn more about COVID-19 infections among children.

You know your child best. Let your child’s doctor know if your child has a fever, is exhausted or has trouble staying awake, won’t eat or drink, has any difficulty in breathing or has any other symptoms that concern you. When in doubt, call the doctor.

It’s important for your child to maintain regular wellness check-ups with his/her doctor and stay up-to-date with all recommended vaccinations, especially the flu shot this season.

Edward-Elmhurst Health has COVID-19 vaccine appointments available to ages 5 and older, including booster doses for ages 12 and older. Schedule your COVID-19 vaccine now.

Contact your child's doctor’s office to schedule your child’s flu shot. Find a doctor.

Edward-Elmhurst Health offers a mobile app, MyEEHealthTM, which helps you keep track of your health from the comfort of anywhere. With new virtual options, you can connect with select healthcare providers online — keeping you safe and at home. Learn more. 

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.

COVID Vaccine Dads and kids 750x500

Another COVID shot? Details on the new COVID-19 vaccine and who should get it

Fall weather is here, and so are the respiratory viruses that circulate in the colder months. Along with your flu shot...

Read More

Covid Cold or Flu 750x500

Flu, cold or COVID?

How many times since the emergence of COVID-19 have you come down with symptoms and wondered if it’s a cold, the flu o...

Read More


Stop the baby talk and start singing

A recent study found that singing works better than talking to keep babies calm.

Read More