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Is It COVID-19 or a Cold?

March 17, 2021

Throughout the winter months and spring, children come down with a runny nose and, in the era of COVID-19, this can cause concern. According to Arthur Atlas, MD, chief of pediatric pulmonology for Atlantic Health System, “all respiratory viral infections can present with similar symptoms, and it can be very challenging to differentiate the COVID-19 infection from other causes of the common cold.”

Dr. Atlas says in addition to a runny nose, symptoms might include nasal congestion, low-grade fever or a cough. “If a child is having these types of symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19, it doesn’t mean they don’t have COVID-19, but more likely, they have another respiratory viral infection such as rhinovirus, RSV, or adenovirus, which are causes of symptoms of the common cold.”

Initially, symptomatic treatment, including fever control, good hydration and nutrition are warranted. Dr. Atlas says symptoms may last seven to 10 days and resolve on their own.

According to Dr. Atlas, the percentage of COVID-19 infections in young children is much less than in the adult population. “In children, the symptoms have a very broad range of presentation, from being totally asymptomatic but testing positive for COVID-19 to having very minimal symptoms like nasal congestion, signs of a cold, fever, cough and sometimes just diarrhea or abdominal pain. Most children diagnosed with COVID-19 infection are treated symptomatically.”

Children with underlying chronic conditions, such as asthma, should not delay their regular health care, according to Dr. Atlas. “We are seeing children with chronic conditions, as well as healthy children needing vaccinations, delaying coming into the doctor’s office because of COVID-19 fears. The practices in our area have instituted very strict precautions to protect patients and their families and the medical staff, so that children can safely access the medical care that is necessary to maintain good health.”

Dr. Atlas says everyone still needs to practice infection control precautions to limit the spread. “Wearing a mask, 6-feet social distancing, and frequent hand sanitizing lessens overall infection rates.”

If your child is having underlying respiratory problems, contact The Respiratory Center for Children at 973-971-4142.