This winter will be an unprecedented season when both the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 will be present and spreading simultaneously, and numbers are already beginning to rise. Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year to protect yourself and the people around you from flu.

Almost everyone 6-months-of-age and older should get a flu vaccine. This will help reduce the spread and relieve some of the impact on medical centers in the community.

Learn Di­fferences Between Flu and COVID-19

Because symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference. Symptoms unique to COVID-19 include change in or loss of taste or smell. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share, include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Another way to distinguish these two illnesses is by the severity and timing of symptoms. Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness and tend to develop within the first few days after infection. COVID-19 symptoms can develop even a couple weeks after infection. COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people, while some individuals can be asymptomatic.

Stopping the Spread of Germs

There are simple steps that you can take to stop the spread of germs:

  • Social distance, avoid crowds and wear a mask to minimize risk.
  • Keep hand sanitizer on you as an alternative to hand washing.
  • If you’re not wearing a mask, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, with a tissue or by coughing or sneezing into your sleeve (elbow).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Wash for 20 seconds or long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
Expert Care for Children at High Risk

While serious cases of COVID-19 mainly affect adults, children can be infected with the virus too. Furthermore, children with asthma or chronic lung disease might be at increased risk of severe illness compared to other children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since children with asthma have sensitive airways, the flu can cause further inflammation and bring on an asthma attack. With already weakened lungs and airways, the flu can even lead to more serious conditions, like pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

If your child gets sick this winter, it’s important to find a doctor and hospital that understands the complexities of these illnesses in children, especially for those with underlying conditions. 

Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach has a Children’s Pulmonary Institute, which is a U.S. News & World Report nationally ranked provider of pediatric pulmonology and immunology/allergy care. Combining these pediatric specialties into one comprehensive program allows Miller Children’s & Women’s to care for children who have complex illnesses like few other hospitals can.

Dr. Inderpal Randhawa is the medical director of the Children’s Pulmonary Institute at Miller Children’s & Women’s. Learn more about the services offered at the Children's Pulmonary Institute.

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