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The best decisions you can make for your family’s health


The most important thing you can do to protect your child’s health this winter is to get a flu shot. Influenza vaccines are important every year, but the threat of COVID-19 will make them even more important in 2020.

You may not know that, but for healthy children, influenza poses a greater threat to complications than COVID-19. Infants and children with underlying illness are also at increased risk of complications from both influenza and COVID. In fact, last year, millions of children across the country got the flu. Many were hospitalized and 166 children died.

Both COVID and influenza are infectious respiratory viruses, but they are caused by different viruses. Complicating this year’s situation is the similar symptoms of COVID and the flu. Tests are needed to diagnose them. And both can spread throughout the community.

Both influenza and COVID-19 are spread by droplets, and at the onset, influenza and COVID have similar symptoms that are common.

• Fever, chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing

• Malaise

• Vomiting and diarrhea

• sore throat

• Runny nose, stuffy nose

• Body aches


It takes time for COVID to show symptoms. Influenza is transmitted only the day before the symptoms and continues to be transmitted for 1 to 4 days after infection. COVID is more contagious, the child is asymptomatic and can spread the disease 2 days before symptoms. It remains contagious for 5 to 14 days after the onset of symptoms.

Complications from both influenza and COVID are:

• Pneumonia

• Respiratory failure

• Inflamed heart, brain and muscles

Therefore, it is imperative that children be vaccinated against the flu this season. Influenza vaccination is effective and reduces the risk of children suffering from serious flu complications.

Here are some recommendations for parents during this flu season:

• Have children over 6 months vaccinated against the flu. Vaccines give children the immunity they need. Both flu shots and nasal vaccines are available for children.

• Engage all adults in home flu shots. Set a good example for your child.

• If you have a runny nose or other symptoms, send your child home from school.

• Contact your pediatrician if your child has a fever or symptoms. You can also access them through virtual visits.

Both influenza and COVID are highly contagious and spread rapidly, requiring the entire family to take the following additional precautions:

• Teach children and the whole family to wash their hands frequently and keep them away from their faces

• Wear a mask in public

• Practice social distance

• Avoid large crowds with children

• Clean the surface of your home frequently

• Protect high-risk families from sick people this winter

In the past, it was encouraged to book a flu shot, but this year, book in advance at a flu shot clinic or pediatrician’s clinic to ensure a safe and socially distant visit. Ask parents to do so.

• Children’s health is an ongoing series. Dr. Frank Belmonte is a pediatrician and chief medical officer at Advocate Children’s Hospital.


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