Flu Season Already?
Flu season has arrived in central Alabama, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it
comes with an additional layer of questions. This year, you may find yourself
wondering if your child has influenza or if the Delta variant has arrived at your
Dr. Kathy Monroe, director of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s of
Alabama, knows many parents may find it confusing. After all, many of the same
symptoms – fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, cough and congestion – can
show up in children with either virus.
What You Can Do
If your child has any of these symptoms, Monroe recommends contacting your
physician. They can determine if a COVID-19 test is necessary and direct you to a
nearby testing site. She also suggests preventive measures, such as covering
your mouth when sneezing and washing or sanitizing your hands. And if
symptoms arise, you should stay away from others.
“If your child exhibits flu-like symptoms like fever, muscle aches or a cough, keep
them home to rest and not spread germs to classmates and teachers,” Monroe
The flu vaccine also offers protection, and Dr. Claudette Poole, an assistant
professor in the Pediatric Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s, says it is
safe to take it with the COVID-19 vaccine.
When To Stay Home
The emergency department (ED) at Children’s of Alabama typically sees more than 70,000
patients per year and currently is seeing more than 240 patients per day.
Physicians at Children’s remind parents that, with that kind of volume, visiting an
emergency room can be counter-productive if you have a non-urgent concern
like flu symptoms. It can create a potential risk for other children in the ED, who
may have underlying conditions and are unable to fight infections as well as
others. The Children’s ED is not a public COVID-19 testing site.
When to See Your Pediatrician
Children with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, sickle cell disease,
diabetes, cancer, etc. are at higher risk of the complications from the flu such as pneumonia and dehydration. If our child has one of these conditions, you should
contact your pediatrician early in the course of a flu-like illness.
When To Get To The Emergency Room
Monroe said children who are laboring to breathe or showing signs of dehydration (such as a low urine output) need treatment right away. “Certainly we advise visiting an emergency room if your child is experiencing respiratory distress or has dehydration,” she said. Monroe adds that both Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be in the care of a primary care physician (pediatrician or family practice physician).
For more information about when to visit an emergency room, visit www.childrensal.org.