Thursday, February 17, 2022

Stomach Flu or COVID-19? Why getting tested is important

Apart from the usual cough and fever, COVID-19 can present with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea - which are similar to that of a stomach infection. While most COVID-19 patients experience respiratory symptoms, studies show that children may only experience gastrointestinal symptoms while infected with the coronavirus.  

How can parents tell the difference when it comes to the wellbeing of their children? Dr. Ruth Kanthula, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist at MedStar Health shares the information below:  
 
>> How common are gastrointestinal symptoms when children get infected with COVID-19? 
Patients with COVID-19 typically develop symptoms such as a cough, fever, wheezing and shortness of breath. However, studies have reported patients experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms at different frequencies. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most reported GI symptoms and often present themselves before a cough or fever. 
 
>> Can children experience GI symptoms during COVID-19 without any respiratory symptoms?
The answer is yes. Children may be infected with the coronavirus and only experience GI symptoms. In fact, a study on COVID-19 and the gastrointestinal tract in children found that 10% of children diagnosed with COVID-19 had only reported the presence of GI symptoms. 
 
>> Are children more likely to get these symptoms than adults?
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports have suggested that the presence of  GI symptoms are more common in children than in adults. But the frequency and clinical outcomes of these gastrointestinal symptoms in children remains unknown. 
 
>> How are stomach viruses different from COVID-19? 
Doctors are still learning about the clinical symptoms associated with COVID-19. There is a small number of viruses that account for most cases of acute gastroenteritis in children, including rotavirus, adenovirus, norovirus, and astrovirus. There have been reports that children infected with other strains of the coronavirus may experience symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. However, the clinical symptoms caused by these viruses are indistinguishable.
 
>> When is it necessary to get COVID test if your child has GI symptoms?
Given that GI symptoms may be the first sign of COVID-19 in children, it is recommended to get tested for the coronavirus as soon as GI symptoms appear - rather than waiting for more common symptoms like cough or fever. 
 
>> How can you treat gastroenteritis symptoms associated with COVID-19?
Supportive care for gastroenteritis includes drinking plenty of fluids and treating with fever reducing medications if necessary. If your child is dehydrated, has severe abdominal pain or has blood in their stool, you should consult your doctor for other treatment options. 
 
>> How can parents prevent the spread of infection in children? 
It is recommended that children ages 5 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against the coronavirus. Hand washing is especially important if children are getting contact with someone who is experiencing gastroenteritis associated with a COVID-19 infection - as scientists have detected the virus in the stool of patients infected with COVID-19. Other preventive measures include wearing a mask for children aged two and up. 

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