Doctor on how to tell if a child has COVID-19 or seasonal allergies

Charles Molineaux
Updated: September 16, 2020 05:18 PM
Created: September 16, 2020 04:57 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area schools saw their first case of a student with coronavirus, as regional health experts urged parents to be calm, and vigilant.

On Wednesday, the Spencerport Central School District reported that the Monroe County Health Department had diagnosed a Spencerport High School Student with COVID-19.

The school system’s announcement indicated “this individual had not reported to campus thus far this year, therefore no staff members or students were exposed at school.”

The discovery was revealed as pediatrician Steven Schulz with the state’s Finger Lakes School Reopening Taskforce tried to spell out the risks of coronavirus and the challenges of identifying it in kids.

“COVID in children tends to be much more mild. It symptoms are pretty broad,” Schulz said. 

With students across the region settling into school, in person or hybrid, he warned coronavirus can be tough to spot in kids.

Area schools have detailed instructions and policies for letting kids in, and Schulz believes the current rules for masks and social distancing should be adequate.

But he cautioned that the risk of false alarms, or camouflaged COVID, increases with colds and allergies coming into season, with similar symptoms.

“A kid with seasonal allergies might have a little bit of watery itchy eyes, a little bit of watery itchy nose, and some sneezing,” he pointed out. “If they are suddenly developing a worsening cough, having trouble breathing, or suddenly developing fever, of course those would be concerns.”

Schulz says the biggest most helpful warning sign would probably be any new fever, although given how well this region has done at getting coronavirus numbers down, the odds are good that those sniffles really are harmless.

“Right now because of community prevalence, there is a 99% chance that those symptoms are due to a different virus that’s not COVID and that’s a good thing and a good place we are starting out with.”

At the same time, Schulz declared it more important than ever to get flu shots since flu and coronavirus have overlapping symptoms and it really is possible to catch and get sick with both of them.

“We could overwhelm our healthcare system,” he said. “Not just with COVID but also with flu and we saw what a strain that was in New York City when this all started. To have COVID and flu both together could overwhelm it even more.”

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