Is it COVID-19 or the Flu?

COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms. In this blog, Hazel pediatrician, Dr. Chew discusses what to do if your child gets sick, and how to prevent illness altogether.
3 Minutes
 • 
Updated
Published
October 5, 2023

These days, when your child is sick, it can be difficult to tell whether their symptoms are COVID-19, the flu, allergies, or the common cold. These illnesses share symptoms–like congestion, coughing, and fatigue, but there are also differences.

It is crucial to figure out what is making your child sick, so you can help them get the treatment they need and prevent spreading the sickness to others. 
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COVID-19 vs.The Flu 

Different viruses cause the flu and COVID-19. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, while COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It can be hard to tell the difference since they share similar symptoms–both COVID-19 and the flu can cause:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Chest discomfort

While less common, both can cause GI symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (these symptoms are more common in young children). The loss of taste and smell is one symptom that some people may get with COVID-19 and is less common than with the flu.

Both are spread similarly through small particles when an infected person sneezes, coughs, sings, talks, or shouts. However, COVID-19 can be spread to others more easily than the flu. The flu and COVID-19 can be spread by infected people who are not showing any symptoms. Both illnesses can be asymptomatic, mild, severe, or even fatal.
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Have symptoms? Get tested!

Since there are so many similarities between COVID-19 and the flu, the only sure way to determine if your child has the flu is to get them tested. You can take your child to get tested at their primary care doctor's office, a local health center, or possibly even your local pharmacy (be sure to check beforehand!).
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Testing for COVID-19 

You can use an at-home COVID-19 test to determine whether your child has the virus. Be careful, though, as testing too early after symptoms develop can produce false negative results. To confirm the result, administer another at-home test 24 to 48 hours after the first. 

If your child still has symptoms and is testing negative at home, experts recommend a PCR test. The PCR test is more sensitive than the rapid and can often detect the virus earlier. You can also omit the quick test and get a PCR test! 

Testing for the flu

There are many tests available to determine whether an individual has the flu. Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) and molecular assays are the most common. Both produce results in 15-20 minutes and can be administered by a healthcare provider.

Most doctor's offices and some pharmacies, and COVID-19 testing centers offer two-in-one tests for COVID-19 and the flu. Testing will reveal your child's illness or whether they have both at the same time. 
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Flu season is here

Flu season has arrived. As temperatures cool and the seasons change, people are more likely to be indoors and closer to others, which leads to more spread. The flu virus prefers colder weather–it is more transmissible in cooler climates with low humidity. 

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Preventing the spread

Strategies to prevent COVID-19—washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing, and masking when symptoms are present—can  prevent the flu. 

The best way to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 and the flu is vaccination. It is important to note, however, that the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against the flu, and the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, so your child would need both vaccines and get both safely at the time! 

Visit https://www.vaccines.gov to find a flu vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination near you!

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About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel’s diverse, culturally competent providers specialize in the health challenges of children and teens and partner with parents and school staff to make the best care decisions for students. Hazel is committed to improving health care equity and is available regardless of family income, geography, insurance status, or ability to pay. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel's diverse, culturally competent providers work with parents and school staff to transform children's access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel serves nearly 2 million students across 100 school districts, helping to reduce chronic absenteeism and unfinished learning by addressing gaps in health care access. As an extension of the school health team, Hazel helps schools immediately address student physical and mental health care needs. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel helps school districts address chronic absenteeism, unfinished learning, and school enrollment, by addressing gaps in health care access.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Instead of waiting for an appointment with a doctor or therapist, children can see a Hazel provider for a telehealth visit, at no cost to families. With guardian permission, Hazel’s telehealth platform allows children to connect with a health care provider within minutes, or a therapist within days of referral. Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. At no cost, and regardless of insurance status, Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

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