It’s finally fall and that means the flu and cold season is upon us. This year is especially unique because we are also faced with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. We will get through this and keep our kids safe by taking extra precautions.
So -- what do we need to know? First of all, we need to remain vigilant about COVID-19 precautions which include social distancing, wearing a mask and frequent handwashing. This will also keep away other viruses, including influenza.
Influenza – more commonly known as the flu consists of symptoms such as, but not limited to, cough, fever/chills, runny nose, congestion, body aches and headaches. These symptoms overlap significantly with those of COVID-19. So consider one distinct difference: lack of taste and smell present in those infected with COVID-19. The best way to be certain of the cause of these symptoms is to undergo viral testing. Rapid tests are currently being developed for the flu and COVID-19 on the same swab. While it is unclear how widely available these tests will be, you can count on Valley Children’s to keep you informed.
Additionally, the history of our flu season usually mimics what happens in the southern hemisphere. Countries like Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil had a very mild flu season. However, we are entering our season with a significant increase of COVID-19 cases, whereas those countries were in a more controlled state at the start of their flu season. For that reason, things might be different this year so it behooves us to prepare!
Taking precautions such as disinfecting surfaces, sneezing/coughing into our elbows and staying home when we are ill, will be paramount now more than ever. But what's truly vital this year is getting the flu shot. Your doctor’s offices and medical facilities are some of the safest places to be during this pandemic, so do not postpone your child’s appointment.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that ALL children 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine. It is the best method for flu prevention. According to the CDC, there were 188 pediatric flu-related deaths in the 2019-20 flu season. Approximately 80% of these children were not vaccinated.
Together, we can do our part to keep our kids safe. While it is difficult to predict how a specific person’s immune system is going to react to COVID- 19 or the flu, it is important to take all the recommended precautions.
The flu and COVID-19 can be dangerous, resulting in hospitalization and even death. If you encounter an emergency, call 9-1-1 and do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician with any health concerns regarding your children.
By Geetanjali Srivastava, MD MPH