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

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, fever has been the most frequently reported symptom of COVID-19. Other symptoms of COVID-19 in children may include cough, 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.

Scientists are still learning about how the virus spreads and impacts children. Findings suggest children are less likely to get COVID-19 than adults, and if they do contract COVID-19, they generally have less serious illness than adults.

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 continue taking precautions to help limit exposures, including wearing masks in public, frequent handwashing and physical distancing.

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.

Flu vaccines are available through your child’s primary care physician. Contact his/her 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.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, your safety and well-being continue to remain our top priority. When you visit us, you will find consistent safety measures in place. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check

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.


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