Moms, here’s how to tell the difference between a cold and COVID-19

With most kids back at school, you might have quietly breathed a sigh of relief, especially if you don’t have anyone to look after your little one when you go to work. But as much as you’re glad they’re with their friends and teachers, and you can focus on your work again, you’re probably still terrified they’ll get sick.

Of course, you know that your kid has always been at risk of getting sick when they go to school, but for most moms, the bigger fear and question right now is whether your kid has developed a common cold or picked up COVID-19. How will you be able to tell the difference?

ALSO SEE: Why face masks are not safe for babies and toddlers

Common illness vs COVID-19

According to experts, kids who have COVID-19 generally show mild symptoms, if any at all. They are described as “stealth carriers”, which they explain makes them not just dangerous to their peers and family members, but to the teachers and staff who they will see while at school as well. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and fever.

Unfortunately, these are also symptoms present in allergies, common colds, the flu and other (less deadly) viruses our kids pick up throughout the year. This can make diagnosing an illness complicated. But your doctor or nurse will guide you.

Here is a useful chart comparing symptoms of common illnesses and Covid-19.

How can I make sure my child doesn’t get sick

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s common for kids to get up to 8 non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses each year. This means that even with all the extra hand-washing, sanitising, and wearing of masks, you will never be able to completely prevent them from getting sick. All you can do is reduce their risk and that, experts say, is by keeping your kids at home – even if they only have the sniffles.

When not to send your child to school

CDC experts recommend that you keep your child at home if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have travelled to a place where they may have been exposed to the virus, or are experiencing one or more of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Complain they can’t taste or smell their food
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Complains of fatigue, muscle or body aches, and a headache.

Just because your child is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean they have COVID-19. If they have been home because of another illness, have not been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and have not developed a fever for 24 hours with no specific diagnosis, experts say it’s okay for them to go back to school.

If your child is sick and has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or travelled to a place where COVID-19 cases are high, you’ll have to follow the school’s quarantine rules.

The bottom line

If your child is not feeling well, keep them at home! And if your child’s nursery school or creche phones you at work to tell you they’re showing signs of COVID-19, be prepared to fetch them and organise with your boss to work from home (if you can) until they’re better.

You might have taken a chance sending your child to school when they weren’t feeling great or dosed them with some Panado pre-COVID-19 (I know I have), it’s just not worth the risk right now. We all need to be more vigilant than ever to help curb the pandemic – and our teachers and community are counting on us for our support.

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