How to tell if your child has COVID-19 or the common cold

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 2:55 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Some Virginia students are returning to the classroom this week. That means they may come home with the sniffles, making it difficult to distinguish if it’s a cold or something the coronavirus.

“There really is no great way to tell the difference without taking a test,” Dr. Paige Perriello said.

The pediatrician says signs of COVID-19 for children can mimic a cold or flu symptoms: “The main symptoms of COVID disease in kids are runny nose, cough, maybe a fever, or maybe a sore throat,” Perriello said.

However, there are some clues: “They may sometimes complain of loss of taste or loss of smell, and that has become very characteristic of COVID,” UVA Health’s Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley said. “I wouldn’t rely on that, because not all kids are old enough to tell you they have those symptoms and not all kids have those symptoms.”

Sometimes when a child has COVID-19, they will have no symptoms at all.

“Children can actually be infected and have no symptoms, or they can have mild symptoms, and then, on occasion, they can develop serious illness,” Shirley said. “Compared to adults, children typically tend to have milder COVID.”

If you think your child may have COVID-19, Perriello says you should keep your child at home.

“As soon as you have any symptoms at all and your child has a little runny nose, a little tickle in their throat, we really want you to call your medical provider and get checked out and talk to them about next steps,” Perriello said. “We really think as soon as someone has symptoms is the time for them to get tested, so there’s no need to delay.”

Perriello says clinical trials are going on right now to see if the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children under 12. For now, pediatricians say students should follow mask rules to avoid contracting COVID-19.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.