Is it flu or is it Covid-19? Decoding child’s symptoms, as they go back to schools

Hina Khan Palwasha

Developing a fever, runny noses, sore throat or cough are the inevitable and usual symptoms of common flu in the winter. They might have not been so worrisome in the past but now with each little sneeze and cough parents are bound to wonder, if those symptoms a sign of Covid-19. Especially, when the schools are reopening around the country. In this case, parents must be informed about what to do.

How to know if it’s Covid-19, or common flu?

It’s quite hard to tell because the symptoms of many typical childhood illnesses mimic with Covid-19 so well that there is no distinguishing feature among them. Most of the doctors have often observed fever, diarrhea or congestion in children who have tested positive. But there are lot of other symptoms that vary from child to child such as loss smell or taste, headache, abdominal pain, sore throat and problems in breathing. Some of which are signs of other minor illnesses as well. In this case if parents know that their child gets allergies like these in this time of year, then it’s probably safe to assume the reason behind her runny nose. But if the symptoms are unusual, it’s best to get her checked up.

However, some of infected children have proven to be potentially asymptomatic as research done on 400 hospitalized children in France found that 45% of the 22 children who tested positive for Covid-19 showed no symptoms of the disease.

While, It’s quite challenging for parents to distinguish between Covid-19 symptoms from the common cold, however there are some distinguishable characteristics and symptoms of MIS-C, a Covid-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which usually affects children and is characterized by a fever up to 101 or higher that doesn’t go down. Moreover, there is a red rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. This inflammatory syndrome, however, is quite rare.

Should the child be kept at home from school?

There’s no point in sending her to school if the child has a fever, as many schools require children with fevers to take a leave until their fever had subsided. Unlike the times before the coronavirus pandemic, when kids would often attend schools with runny noses and coughs as these illnesses can drag on for weeks, this is not the year to be sending them to school sick, even a mild symptom shows up. Because, children are very good at shedding the virus and it might spread the class.

These symptoms include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain, regardless of whether the child has a fever or not. As it’s not confirmed whether fever always comes first or after. If these symptoms persist and the test is readily available in your area, it’s important to get the child tested even if the symptoms are mild and there is no fever.

Always remember, it doesn’t matter how vigilant you are or how careful the school is, risk of illness will always be there and it’s impossible to avoid it entirely. Because when children get together, illness spreads from child to child and we can only mitigate, not eliminate risk. If we keep on waiting for its elimination, schools are not going to reopen.

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