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Every year, once the sniffles start, it seems like they don’t stop until spring. But this year, each sniffle brings a new level of anxiety: What is it? Here’s the bad news: It’s really hard to tell.

There are some helpful charts that can help you understand which symptoms are most prevalent with which illness, but the bottom line is, there’s a lot of overlap: fevers, coughs, sore throats, and fatigue are pretty common throughout. And while the CDC notes that fever and a new, persistent cough are the most common COVID-19 symptoms in children, the virus can present in many different ways.


If it’s easy enough for your family to quarantine at home for 14 days as soon as someone gets a hint of illness, that’s great. But for most of us, it’s going to be useful to find out how and where we can get a COVID-19 test locally, and roughly how long it’ll take to get the results. And if your kid is back in in-person school, there are probably strict rules for when you’ll need to keep them home and for how long. (This year more than ever, we all need to follow the rules. No more dosing the kid with Tylenol and sending them off to school with fingers crossed. Admit it: We’ve all done it.)


Our best advice? Pin your school’s health guidance to the refrigerator and figure out your pediatrician’s protocol for getting tested for flu and COVID-19 now, before you need it. (Identifying the local testing options for adults is a good idea, too.)


And wait, didn’t we say “here’s the bad news”? Doesn’t that imply that there’s also good news? Right. Here’s the good news: masks, hand-washing, and social distancing are all going to help keep us healthy—not just from COVID-19, but from the whole gamut of viruses. So if we’re extra careful, and with a little luck, we might have fewer sniffles this year than ever before.

“This year more than ever, we all need to follow the rules. No more dosing the kid with Tylenol and sending them off to school with fingers crossed. Admit it: We’ve all done it.”

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