How to tell if your child has a cold, flu, RSV or COVID-19

How to tell if your child has a cold, flu, RSV or COVID-19

As we enter our third winter with COVID-19, experts are warning that cases of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza are already rising rapidly, possibly setting the stage for what some are calling a “triple demy.” These diseases, along with the common cold, are all common similar symptoms. And if you or your child gets sick, it can be hard to figure out exactly what’s going on.

Early signs — such as pharmacies struggling to meet unexpected demand for antiviral flu drugs i.a A high school in Virginia is closing after 1,000 students fell ill with flu-like symptoms – suggest this flu season could be more severe than the last few. Several states, including Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and New York, are already seeing high levels of flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It could be a really bad omen for winter, if it is combined with the rise of COVID-19,” said Dr. Kavita Patel, NBC News Medical Contributor. segment aired on October 24.

Moreover, children’s hospitals across the country are being filled with respiratory viral infections, especially RSV, TODAY reported previously. And a The surge of COVID-19 in Europe indicates that one in the US is likely on the way.

So with at least three respiratory viruses that cause similar symptoms circulating this fall and winter, it can be difficult to know which one you or your child is infected with. Here’s expert advice on how to tell if it’s the flu, COVID-19, the common cold or RSV, when to take and COVID-19 test and when it’s time to call the doctor.

How will I know if my child gets COVID-19?

According to CDC, hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 are significantly lower in children than in adults with the disease. Children may have many symptoms or may be asymptomatic. In any case, if the child tests positive for COVID-19, he still needs to be careful, said Dr. Dane Snyder, chief of primary care pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, because one of the biggest “risk factors is that it can spread to someone else who is at a much higher risk.”

The CDC emphasizes that it is still possible for children to contract a severe case of COVID-19 and be hospitalized. Snyder also cautioned parents to watch for symptoms, because “there is a unique syndrome in children called MIS that usually happens a few weeks after a child gets COVID-19.”

MIS-C, short for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, is a condition that has the potential to cause “very serious diseases in children later”. Snyder notes that this condition is unique to COVID-19 and should be watched for because it’s not something that doctors and medical professionals “see very often in other diseases.”

dr. Flor Munoz, associate professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital, recommends that children be tested if they show any symptoms of COVID-19. Testing is critical “especially because it is difficult to distinguish between RSV, influenza and COVID-19.”

Now even children from 6 months can get the COVID-19 vaccineand children older than 5 years of age may also receive an updated bivalent dose to boost the COVID-19 dose after their primary series is completed.

Flu and coronavirus have many symptoms. Below is a list of signs of COVID-19 symptoms especially in children, according to at the CDC.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in children:

When to call a doctor:

If your child has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus, it is important to let your doctor know. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, Snyder recommends that they remain isolated throughout the quarantine period, as outlined by the CDC, and “follow the guidelines and policies of the health department and the CDC.”

What is RSV disease?

Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSVis a virus that spreads through respiratory droplets and direct contact The CDC explains. When an infected person coughs or sneezes into someone else’s eyes, nose or mouth, they can spread the virus. Those droplets can also land on surfaces, like a counter or doorknob, where someone else could pick them up, the CDC says.

It is a seasonal virus that usually circulates in the winter, although doctors see an increase in the number of RSV cases this year much earlier than usual.

Like many other viruses, RSV runs its course and disappears on its own in adults.

“All of us adults have probably had it at some point, and it’s like a cold. We’ll get over it within a few days,” Dr. John Torres, NBC News medical correspondent said TODAY.

What is RSV in children?

However, when it comes to young children, medical professionals are more concerned. “For vulnerable babies, those younger than 6 months, premature babies, those with any respiratory or immune system problems, it can be serious, even fatal,” Torres added.

Munoz told DANAS that “the problem is that you have young children who are at greater risk because they will have more problems with the lower respiratory tract.”

In other words, babies may be at greater risk when they contract RSV because they are more likely to develop bronchiolitis, which is “caused by a virus that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways,” Munoz said.

Is there a vaccine against RSV?

There are currently no vaccines available to prevent the spread of RSV. If someone in your household gets RSV, experts say the most effective way to prevent further spread of the virus is to wash your hands frequently, disinfect all toys and avoid crowds as much as possible. Munoz also recommends that parents prevent other adults from kissing their children (but hugs are fine!).

“The best way to prevent getting RSV is to really do what you would normally do to prevent other respiratory viruses, which is to wash your hands,” Munoz said.

Related: The US is seeing an alarming increase in respiratory viruses such as RSV among children. One hospital has been hit so hard it’s considering enlisting the help of the National Guard.

Symptoms of RSV:

RSV has many of the same symptoms as the common cold, COVID-19, and the flu: runny nose, cough, and low-grade fever are common. These are the most common symptoms of RSV at the CDC.

  • Runny nose

  • Coughing

  • Decreased appetite

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Wheezing

RSV in infants

Young infants and young children can show different signs of RSV. The CDC says young children may become tired, show little interest in activities, become more irritable, and may show signs of difficulty breathing. Older children can also have similar problems, although experts say it’s common for their lips to swell if they’ve had major breathing problems. If any of these symptoms appear, take your child to the emergency room immediately.

When to call a doctor:

If you notice your child has any skin discoloration or has any type of respiratory problems including, but not limited to, difficulty breathing or wheezing, Torres asks that you notify a doctor immediately, as severe cases of RSV can progress to bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

If your child has a mild case, it’s important to stay hydrated, clear any nasal congestion, and continue to monitor for more severe symptoms.

Related: Flu season has already started early in the United States, and there are reports of pharmacies seeing increased demand for antiviral flu drugs like Tamiflu.

What you need to know about the common cold:

When kids get sick, Snyder said most of the time, he’s to blame the common cold.

“Most likely colds caused by viruses other than COVID-19 are still the most common thing we’re seeing,” he said. At this time of year, experts say it’s not uncommon for children to catch colds at school, in large crowds or simply because they’re worn out. “Colds are one of the more common things we see children with in both primary care and emergency departments,” Snyder said.

Once children catch a cold, there is no set time frame for when the illness will go away. Generally, Snyder said a cold can last about three to five days, and a cough can last a few more weeks.

There is no cure or specific way to treat colds in children. Experts say that colds are “extremely common in the first few years of life” and that “an average child can have six to eight colds during the year”.

Related: If he’s (and you) coughing at night, try one of these home remedies to ease his nagging attack.

Common cold symptoms:

Snyder cautions parents to monitor children closely to see if symptoms progress.

When to call a doctor:

If you begin to notice that a more severe symptom persists, such as shortness of breath, an inability to stay hydrated, or urination less often, Snyder recommends contacting your primary care physician immediately.

What will this flu season be like?

The flu or flu is a common virus that affects the nasal passages, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It is a contagious respiratory disease that is mainly spread when infected people sneeze, cough or talk. It’s unlikely, but the flu can also be spread through a surface route, if an infected person touches something and then another person touches it and continues to touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

Flu season, which could start as early as mid-November and last until March, will look a little different this year. In the last two years, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of influenza than in pre-pandemic times. Experts attribute this to a combination of coronavirus-related precautions (such as avoiding crowds and wearing masks), as well as an increase in the number of people getting flu shots, TODAY explained earlier.

This year, however, experts warn that the number of cases in some parts of the country is already much higher than it was earlier during the pandemic. This flu season is expected to be severe, as was the case with Australia’s last flu season, usually a harbinger of what’s to come in the US. To make matters even more troubling, fewer flu shots have been administered in the US at this point in the season than at the same time of year in the previous two seasons.

In order to protect yourself and your children, experts emphasize that the most effective means is to have your own child get a flu shot. Snyder stressed to parents that “flu shots are safe for all children” over the age of 6 months. Some children may also need two flu shots this year.

If your child comes down with the flu, Munoz recommends calling a primary care physician because “there are many different types of antiviral medications that are specific to the flu.”

Flu symptoms:

Flu symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common signs include:

Munoz said one should be careful about further complications, because the flu “can certainly lead to secondary infections like pneumonia.”

When to call a doctor:

Similar to the common cold, if your child’s symptoms persist for more than five days, Snyder recommends seeing your doctor. Be sure to watch if “they can’t take fluids or have difficulty breathing,” Snyder noted. He reminded parents that the younger the child, the greater the need to consult your doctor.

Munoz stressed that parents should feel comfortable calling doctors whenever they have concerns or when something is wrong, especially because the flu is “very, very contagious.”

This article was originally published on

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