Young children are at a higher risk of developing more severe cases of flu and complications can include pneumonia, dehydration, sinus infections and even death. This year’s flu season may be more complicated, as cases of COVID-19 continue to spread. Families can prepare by getting a flu shot, following infection prevention protocols and by keeping kids home when they get sick.
Thomas Murray, MD, Associate Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, answered some frequently asked questions about flu season.
Is it safe for kids to get the flu shot?
Yes, it’s safe for kids to get the flu shot this year and it’s especially important because of COVID-19.
Should all kids get the flu shot?
Any child older than 6 months should get the flu shot. The only reason why a child shouldn’t get the shot is if they’ve had a previous allergy to a flu shot.
Watch Pediatric Minute: What can I do to protect my child from the flu?
What are the flu symptoms parents should look out for?
Common flu symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. A flu test can confirm if your child has the flu, and your pediatrician can prescribe antiviral medications.
How do flu symptoms differ from COVID-19 symptoms?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 symptoms and flu symptoms. Nearly all of the typical flu symptoms can be present with COVID-19. One main difference is if a child experiences the loss of taste or smell. That’s an indicator they may have COVID-19.
If your child is developing symptoms, contact your pediatrician right away. A COVID-19 test can confirm if your child has the illness, and if they’re positive, they will need to be isolated from others.
When should a child go to the Emergency Department?
Take your child to the Emergency Department if they are having difficulty breathing, if their lips turn blue, if they experience chest pain or seizures, if they’re not alert when they’re awake or have a high fever that doesn’t improve with over the counter fever reducers.
Dehydration is another common reason to bring a child to the hospital. If your child is vomiting frequently, or they’re not urinating as frequently as they should, they may be dehydrated.
My child already got a flu shot. What else can I do?
Many of the things we are already doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also prevent the spread of influenza. Frequent hand washing and mask wearing is very important. If your child is sick, they need to stay home and stay away from other children who might be sick.