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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

September 30, 2021, Pepka, Lisa, MD
Answers to 8 FAQs about Flu and COVID-19
Answers to 8 FAQs about Flu and COVID-19

Kids are back in school, temperatures have dropped, and autumn is finally in full swing in Arizona. During this time of year, we also begin seeing more cases of seasonal influenza (flu) viruses, which are most common during the fall and winter seasons.

In addition to entering flu season, we continue to navigate COVID-19 and the Delta variant, which has largely affected children. A lot of families are asking what they can do to protect their children. Here are eight commonly asked questions we get at Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics and our recommendations on what families can do to curb the spread of both illnesses.

Symptoms for flu and COVID-19 are so similar. How can I tell if my child has flu or COVID-19?

It’s true. There are a lot of similarities between flu and COVID-19. Both of these contagious respiratory illnesses share similar symptoms, including fever, cough, congestion, fatigue, body aches, nausea and vomiting, and headache, to name a few. Both illnesses can also be spread by individuals before they experience any signs or symptoms. And, both are spread mainly by virus-containing particles expelled by coughing, sneezing or talking.

If your child experiences any flu-like symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment for your child with their doctor to help determine the cause and most effective treatment plan. All Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics locations offer rapid influenza, rapid COVID antigen and COVID RT-PCR tests, which are available by scheduling an office visit with one of our providers. Please note, COVID-19 tests conducted before medical procedures at Phoenix Children’s Hospital must still be conducted at our hospital.

Can my child contract COVID-19 and influenza at the same time?

Yes, children (and adults for that matter) could contract COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. However, since symptoms for both are so similar, it’s often difficult to differentiate between the two illnesses. Testing enables you to determine whether or not your child’s symptoms are due to COVID-19, influenza or another infection.

What can I do to protect my child from flu and COVID-19?

Common healthy habits can help protect children from illness, including frequent hand washing, covering the mouth and nose with a mask, and avoiding close content with people who are sick. One of the best defenses against serious illness is to get available vaccines.

According to the CDC, an annual vaccine is still the best way to help protect against flu. The CDC also recommends that all those eligible for the flu shot be vaccinated by the end of October. Protecting children from the flu may also help curb the potential spread of illness to their family members, friends and other adults.

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available for children ages 12 years and older. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine not only helps to protect against getting and spreading the infection, it also helps lessen the severity of symptoms and risk of complications should a person get infected.

It’s important to note that no vaccine offers 100% protection. See below for information on where your child can get flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Can the COVID-19 and flu vaccine make my child sick?

Flu vaccines cannot cause influenza infection. Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make a person become infected with COVID-19. Vaccines can, however, frequently cause side effects that mimic illness, such as a runny nose, low-grade fever, body aches and headaches. These side effects are typically mild.

If me or my child (over age 12 years) received the COVID-19 vaccine, do we still need a flu shot?

The COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing infection and serious illness, but it isn’t designed to protect against influenza. Similarly, this year’s flu vaccine is designed to protect against the four most common strains of flu viruses anticipated to be circulating in the upcoming flu season, but does not protect against COVID-19. To lower your family’s risk of contracting influenza, it’s important that every eligible family member gets both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Will getting the flu shot increase my family’s chances of getting COVID-19?

No, the two diseases are completely different. Getting a flu shot will not increase or reduce the risk of getting COVID-19. That’s why social distancing, wearing a face mask (for kids 2 years and older) when in public, frequent hand washing and avoiding large gatherings continue to be important protections against COVID-19.

Is it safe to get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

The CDC has recently confirmed that it is safe for the influenza and COVID-19 vaccines to be given to an eligible person (12+ years old) during the same health care visit. If you have concerns about your child getting both vaccines at the same time, please speak with their health care provider.

Where can my child get a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine?

The Arizona Department of Health Services offers a complete list COVID-19 vaccination locations. Flu vaccines are also widely available through pediatricians’ offices, primary care providers and at some local pharmacies. Schools throughout Arizona are offering flu shots on campuses, too. Families of Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics can call their provider’s office to schedule flu vaccines for their children.

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