Making Sense of Symptoms: Is It COVID-19, the Flu, RSV, or Something Else?

Making Sense of Symptoms: Is It COVID-19, the Flu, RSV, or Something Else?

Winter is here, and it brings a higher number of illnesses than the rest of the year. With COVID-19 entering the picture as a new virus in the past few years, it’s gotten more confusing than ever to figure out the sickness your child has.

COVID-19, influenza, RSV, and other winter illnesses have some overlapping symptoms, but they also have some differences that can help you distinguish between the viruses. Rainilda Valencia, MDMicaela Marin-Tucker, PA-C, and Megan Reynolds, C-PNP, from Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, share the differences in symptoms of the most common winter illnesses.

Symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 is the newest respiratory virus to enter our common winter childhood illnesses, and it, along with influenza and RSV, are together being called a tripledemic. If your child has COVID-19, you can expect to see some or all of the following symptoms:

Another symptom common in many children with COVID-19 is the loss of their ability to taste or smell. This symptom isn’t common in the flu or RSV.

Symptoms of the flu

The flu, or influenza, is a common winter virus that shares many symptoms with COVID-19. When your child has the flu, you might expect them to display:

Your child usually gets the flu within four days of being exposed to another person who had the virus. Children with the flu can have a very high fever, more often than with COVID-19 or RSV.

Symptoms of RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, is a common virus in children under two years of age. 

Other signs of RSV are:

Unlike COVID-19 and the flu, RSV can cause your child to develop a cough that sounds like it has a wheeze or rattle.

Distinguishing between similar winter illnesses

COVID-19, the flu, and RSV have many similar symptoms. In addition, other winter illnesses that occur often in children, like the common cold, also cause symptoms like runny nose, cough, fatigue, and fever, although children with colds usually appear less ill than children with these other conditions.

A few symptoms can help you tell the difference between each illness, but the best way to know for sure what your child has is with a lab test. Our team uses lab testing at Valencia Pediatrics to differentiate between the most common childhood viruses.

Depending on your child's illness, our team prescribes treatments to help them fight the virus. We also recommend rest and hydration to help your child recover. 

Contact our team or emergency services right away if your child has an extremely high fever, is having trouble breathing, has severe vomiting or diarrhea, or is showing symptoms of developing a more serious illness like pneumonia.

If your child has symptoms of a winter virus, don’t hesitate to call our team for a phone consultation and, if needed, an appointment or treatment. We’re here to help your child get and stay healthy during the often challenging season of winter viruses.

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