Montefiore in the News
School is Back and So is the Flu
- October 21, 2021
Now that school is back in session in The Bronx and the colder weather and flu season are here, it is a good time to review how to best keep your children healthy and protected. While numbers are, thankfully, decreasing, COVID-19 remains a threat and it remains important to stay alert. Now, when the typical cold weather sniffles come around, more families may be concerned if it’s allergies, a cold, the flu or COVID-19.
As symptoms of these conditions are similar, it is important to recognize when you or your child should get tested for COVID-19 to prevent further transmission. Different people with COVID-19 may experience different symptoms, but the most common symptoms include: fever and chills, a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
Almost all of these symptoms are also common with influenza, with the exception of new loss of taste or smell. If you or your child has any of these symptoms or if you are aware of a close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends getting a COVID-19 test. Close contact is considered being within 6 feet of someone for a total of at least fifteen minutes over a 24-hour period, two days before they show COVID-19 symptoms or getting a positive COVID-19 test result.
Those with symptoms should get a test as soon as possible, while those with an exposure should seek testing 3-5 days after it. With the increase of the Delta variant, testing after exposure is now recommended even if you are vaccinated. Getting a test for COVID-19 is easy and free, and testing locations can be found by texting “COVID TEST” to 855-48 or using the nyc.gov webpage.
To reduce any chances of becoming ill with COVID-19, there are many actions you can take. The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe, free, and effective method that reduces your risk of becoming seriously ill, hospitalized, or dying after contracting the virus that causes COVID-19.
Additionally, it protects the most vulnerable members of your family and those in our community who are not eligible to receive the vaccine yet. The AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recommend that adolescents aged 12 and older and adults receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is available for children ages 12 and older, with authorization for children aged 5-11 expected in the coming weeks. Both the two-dose Moderna and one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccines are available for individuals aged 18 and older.
Another important vaccine to receive is the influenza vaccine. This vaccine is available to individuals 6 months and older. Ensuring that everybody in your family receives the flu vaccine is an easy way to protect against the flu. Both COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines can be located using the NYC vaccine finder website: vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or calling the vaccination hotline: 1-877-VAX-4NYC.
As a reminder, individuals ages 12-17 have access to the Pfizer vaccine as of now. Additionally, the website allows you to filter to sites providing the flu vaccine to individuals younger than 18 years old and by insurance coverage. You can also ask about either of these vaccines at your doctor’s office.
While we are all hopeful about the declining COVID-19 cases, it still remains a threat in our communities, so it is important to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu and continue to practice the tried and true mitigation efforts we have been practicing for months: wear a mask, physically distance, and stay vigilant for when to get tested for COVID-19 after exposure. By working together as a community to support each other, we have the best chance of overcoming COVID-19 and other common respiratory illnesses.
Michael D. Cabana, MD, MPH is physician-in-chief, and Evin F. Rothschild is study coordinator in the Department of Pediatrics, both at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.