Spotting the Difference Between Flu and COVID-19 in Kids

December 03, 2020

Before news broke of two potential vaccines, most of what we heard about COVID-19 was bad. The only bright spot is that young children are less likely to get infected from the virus. They can still catch it and spread it, but at a greatly reduced rate. 

Because kids are still susceptible, parents and caregivers need to stay vigilant whenever children start to show signs of illness. Runny noses, sore throats, coughs, and fever are common symptoms with colds, flu, and COVID-19 so it’s important to be able to spot the differences.

The flu can still be a deadly threat, particularly in the age of COVID-19. A compromised immune system resulting from a cold or the flu can increase the chances of contracting COVID-19 for kids and adults. While younger children have shown greater resilience to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they are much more susceptible to colds and flu. 

 

What to Look For

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There are some general symptoms shared with cold, flu and COVID-19 you should be aware of. Higher-risk symptoms should lead you to have your child tested for COVID-19.

The general symptoms include:
⦁    Fever over 100.4oF
⦁    Sore throat
⦁    Congestion or runny nose
⦁    Headache
⦁    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
⦁    Fatigue, muscle, or body aches

Red-flag symptoms include:
⦁    Coughing
⦁    Difficulty breathing
⦁    Loss of taste or smell

Loss of taste or smell is more often a symptom of COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is a more serious symptom, though it is associated with other illnesses. Coughing, which could be a symptom of multiple illnesses, increases the risk of passing the disease to others.

 

What to Do

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Children experiencing just one of the general symptoms should be monitored and kept away from others. They can return to regular activities once they have been symptom-free for 24 hours without  taking fever-reducing medication.

Children experiencing two or more general symptoms, or one red-flag symptom, should be seen by a health care provider. Your provider will tell you whether or not a COVID-19 test is necessary. If no test is needed,, the child can return to regular activities once symptoms improve and they have been symptom-free for 24 hours. If a test is needed, and the result is negative, the same rules apply.

If the test is positive, or they do not see a doctor to receive a test, they must be monitored for 10 days and CANNOT return to regular activities until after that period and they have gone 24 hours without a fever. 

If your child has been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19, then your child MUST quarantine and see a health care provider. They can only return to regular activities after 14 days from last contact with the infected person. If they start showing symptoms, they must get a COVID-19 test.

 

What’s Happening Now

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While there has been positive news about effective COVID-19 vaccines, they may not be available to the general public for six months or longer. It is important to remain vigilant to protect everyone in your family.

Have frank conversations with your children, not only about the physical effects of COVID-19, but about any sadness or anxiety they may be experiencing as a result of schools being closed and their routines being disrupted. Find out what they know, let them guide the conversation, and make sure you’re honest about what’s happening and how they can protect themselves.

 

We’re Here for You

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AltaMed has reliable resources about coronavirus and can help you separate fact from fiction. We also provide testing and information on how to care for patients at home, and instructions on how to quarantine at home. For more information or to schedule a COVID-19 test, call (888) 499-9303.

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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COVID-19, Flu, Allergies or a Cold? A Helpful Guide to Knowing the Difference

March 17, 2020

In Southern California, flu season seems to last longer and longer each year. Thanks to drier winters and less rain, allergy season starts earlier every year. And at the moment, our nation is justifiably worried about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

If you’ve got a sniffly nose, a sore throat, and a fever, you may not be 100% sure what you have. We’re here with information that will hopefully put your worries at ease, and help you determine what kind of care you need.

 

Are Coronavirus and COVID-19 the Same?

Coronavirus

Not exactly. Coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses. Some of these viruses make people sick with the common cold. COVID-19 is the name of the disease we’ve all heard about. The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is so new, we still don’t know very much about it.

 

COVID-19 vs. the Flu (influenza)

When we started to learn about COVID-19, many people compared it to influenza, most commonly known as the flu, in terms of symptoms and how it spreads. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by entirely different viruses.

Symptoms in common: Both illnesses cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can be mild or severe and turn into pneumonia. Both can be fatal.

It may be possible for a sick person to have symptoms so mild, they don’t realize they have the disease, and so they may walk around spreading the virus to healthy people.

How the diseases spread: Both can be spread from person to person from the droplets that come from sneezing, coughing or even talking.

AND: Experts believe that COVID-19 is powerful enough to live on surfaces long after the infected person is no longer present.

Be proactive: Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year.

Unfortunately, there still isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Your best bet for preventing it is proper handwashing, staying home if you’re sick, and social isolation.

Treatment: Because both diseases are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t do any good. Instead, doctors aim to treat symptoms, such as reducing fever and suppressing a cough. However, both can be serious and require hospitalization.

 

Coronavirus vs. Allergies

Allergy symptoms are usually quite different from COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike COVID-19, which is a virus, allergies are your immune system’s response to a foreign substance.

Symptoms: Allergy symptoms include itchy or runny nose, rashes or itchy skin, and watery eyes. In extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, your air passage shuts down, and it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. Difficulty breathing is also a symptom of COVID-19, but with allergies, the onset is almost immediately after encountering a specific trigger.

Transmission: Allergies aren’t contagious like a cold or flu, so there’s no chance of spreading it from one person to the next. Allergies do have a genetic component, which is why it may seem like other people in your family have them at the same time you do.

Prevention: Unless you do allergy testing and shots, your best method for preventing allergic reactions is to keep an allergy diary and then stay away from your triggers.

Treatment: You can usually treat allergy symptoms with common, over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and medicated lotions to help relieve itchy rashes and hives.

 

COVID-19 vs. the Common Cold

Mild cases of COVID-19 may be mistaken for a cold.

Symptoms in common: Because many of the symptoms are the same, it can be tough to tell the difference. Experts say that if your first symptoms included a sore throat and runny nose, it’s likely just a cold. A fever could be a sign that it’s something more than a cold.

Prevention: The common cold is famously difficult to prevent. But following the same protocol for COVID-19 should help protect you.

Treatment: There’s not much you can do for a cold, other than treating the symptoms. Time-tested advice includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking age-appropriate over-the-counter remedies.

 

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

uncomfortable throat

First off, the good news is that about 80% of COVID-19 cases resolve quickly on their own when the person stays home, gets rest, and treats the symptoms.

Unless your symptoms get dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask). AltaMed is advising our patients to treat mild symptoms just like you would treat a cold by staying home, taking over-the-counter cold treatments like Tylenol or Nyquil. Avoid other people until your symptoms go away for at least 72 hours without having to take these medications.

 

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please confirm with your doctor the timing of when you are no longer contagious.

To learn more about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and news, bookmark our Coronavirus resource page. And for the time being, AltaMed is waiving the cost-sharing and co-pays for medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19.

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

7 Ways to Support Your Child’s Mental Health

June 19, 2020

Our children and teenagers are suffering the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the civil unrest that has shaken our nation, just like we are. Even if they and their immediate families have stayed healthy, these crises have taken a toll on young people. From the outrage over the murders of countless unarmed Black people at the hands of the police and the racism it put on display, to the sadness of missing important life milestones, and the anxiety  they surely feel from all of the bad news out there, our youth need our support more than ever.

It’s natural that many of our children are sad and grieving, but increasingly, health experts worry about long-term mental health issues. While it’s true that children are often tougher, smarter, and more resilient than we give them credit for, we need to take their mental health seriously. Here are a few ways you can support your children.

 

Let Your Kids Be Sad and Grieve

Section 1As a parent, it’s natural that you want to protect your child from pain. However, denying them or trying to distract them from their sadness is actually doing them a big disservice. According to AltaMed’s Director of Behavioral Health, Sandra Pisano, PsyD,  this can make your child less resilient, which means they may have a harder time bouncing back from future sadness and disappointment. To help your child develop this important resiliency, help them participate in creative and playful activities. “Creativity and play stimulate the “pleasure” and “calming” parts of the brain, which in turn prevents or reduces sad and fearful reactions,” Dr. Pisano says. You might consider challenging your child to draw or write a story about what they’re feeling. This will stimulate their creativity while allowing them to honestly process their thoughts.

 

Communicate Honestly but Optimistically

Section 2

Even if your first instinct is to protect your kids from the harsh realities of current events, this could backfire. To some degree, your kids know what’s going on – and if they aren’t getting the full picture, they are probably imagining that things are much worse than they really are. 

Communicate with them honestly and frequently, including discussions about the impact of recent events, especially if your family or friends have been directly affected. Be straightforward and include reasons for optimism, too – for example, point to how individuals and communities across the country have pulled together to offer support for one another during these uncertain times.

 

Introduce Them to Mindfulness

Section 3Maybe you’ve heard about mindfulness at your job or from a social media influencer. It’s the practice of being present: slowing down, doing one thing at a time, and focusing on living in each moment. 

Mindfulness can help kids deal with anxiety and negative emotions, but it also has many other positive benefits, such as helping them make better decisions and improving their self-esteem. And, if they learn mindfulness at an early age, they can use it for the rest of their lives.

If you’re new to the concept, there’s a simple exercise you both can practice together. When you or your child find yourself in a stressful or uncomfortable situation, just STOP:

S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, take a time-out.
T: Take a breath. As you breathe, tune everything out but the feeling of pulling air into your body. 
O: Observe. Notice what is happening, and your thoughts and feelings, too. 
P: Proceed. Whatever you do next, think about what you’ve experienced in this moment. 

Some people who practice mindfulness combine it with meditation, but you don’t have to – and neither do your kids. The best way to teach your kids mindfulness is to practice it yourself, and then together.

 

Limit Their Intake of News

Section 4Thanks to social media and being home all the time, we’re all seeing more news than ever – and many of us are finding that it’s terrible for our mental health.

An easy way to limit the intake of news is by limiting device usage and screen time. Think about creating device-free zones or times – for example, no devices at the dinner table or an hour before bedtime. You can also make time for your family to watch or read the news then talk about it. Try to speak about the news honestly, while also emphasizing any positive aspects,  and discuss what you can do to keep your family safe, healthy, and connected to loved ones during this time.

 

Keep Providing a Healthy Environment 

Section 5One of the best ways to support your child is by continuing to maintain a nurturing, stable environment. 

⦁    Make sure you create structure and routine in their daily lives.
⦁    Even if you want to spoil them or give in to requests for fast food, continue to cook healthy, balanced meals – good nutrition can make a big difference in their moods (as well as your own).
⦁    Keeping them healthy means keeping them on their vaccine schedule. This is more important than ever since many children have missed their shots, which could put your child at risk when schools start to open up.
⦁    Kids require more sleep than we do – even teenagers require 8-9 hours a night, so help them get a good night’s sleep.

 

Recognize the Signs that Something’s Not Right

Section 6We all know kids – especially teenagers – can be moody. However, look out for these clear signs that there could be a bigger problem.

⦁    Noticeable changes in personality and temperament
⦁    Fatigue or claiming to be tired all the time
⦁    Anger or acting out – children often mask their depression with aggressive behavior
⦁    Socially withdrawn
⦁    Difficulty thinking or concentrating
⦁    Expressing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
⦁    Talk of self-harm or suicide

 

Get Them Help If They Need It

Section 7Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are real, and they can have serious consequences for children if left untreated. If you believe something is wrong, talk to your pediatrician. They may be able to give you additional guidance or refer you to a Behavioral Health specialist

Our pediatricians are taking appointments now – your child may be able to have a virtual visit, but in-person visits are required for immunizations. Your and your child’s mental health matters to us, and we want to help!

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.