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Local pediatrician weighs in on the difference between flu and COVID in children

Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 28, 2020

In an effort to prevent a "twindemic" of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, health experts are urging people to get vaccinated now against the flu.

Dr. Rene Bravo of Bravo Pediatrics in San Luis Obispo says flu season is typically anywhere from September to March.

In the midst of a pandemic and with flu season looming, he’s prepping for what’s to come.

“I expect as the winter progresses and more and more schools and businesses open up that we will see a natural increase in the number of COVID cases that we see,” Dr. Bravo said.

He says over the past six months, he’s seen a number of kids who have tested positive for COVID.

“Most of them have been identified only because the parents were ill and the children were tested because of the parents exposure and I've seen these, followed them along, and they've done very, very well,” Dr. Bravo explained.

“We haven't felt super concerned about the kids getting hit really hard and we don't have underlying conditions,” added parent Heidi Lehmkuhl.

According to data from San Luis Obispo County Public Health, three kids under 17 years old have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Last flu season there were 15 deaths among individuals 18 years and younger in California compared to 17 deaths the season before, according to the California Department of Public Health.

That’s compared to two COVID-19 related deaths in children between the ages of 5 and 17 so far this year in the state.

Dr. Bravo says the biggest difference between the flu and COVID is the timing.

The flu comes on within two to three days whereas COVID is more gradual meaning symptoms can appear up to 15 days from exposure.

“Most of the time what I hear from people, patients, is that they lose a sense of taste and smell with the COVID disease whereas that's not as common with the flu,” Dr. Bravo said.

With COVID, a fever is milder than with the flu. A headache and extreme fatigue is more common. But a runny nose, a cough, and congestion is more vigorous with influenza.

“My biggest concern is not being able to distinguish between people who have a common cold, people who have the flu, and people who have COVID because in the earliest phases of these diseases sometimes they're indistinguishable,” Dr. Bravo said.

“We’re just kind of taking it one day at a time and hoping that we'll say healthy,” Lehmkuhl added.

While there’s no cure for the flu or COVID, Dr. Bravo says prevention is key.

“Maintain that physical distance, don't be around people if you're sick or if you suspect that you're ill and use your mask,” Dr. Bravo said.

He adds that people as young as 6-months-old can get a flu shot.

One in three parents in the U.S. plan to skip flu shots for their kids this year, according to a new University of Michigan poll out Monday.

According to Dr. Bravo, about 20% of parents at his office typically decline flu shots.