PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- The CDC reported that this past flu season was the deadliest ever for children in the U.S., and Arizona numbers were higher too. So what could this next season look like with COVID-19 around too?

This past flu season just ended in late September, so doctors are gearing up for this winter when cases normally spike.

A Phoenix pediatrician said last season may have been most deadly for kids, but this season it may be difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu, and it's terrifying for parents who have to experience the worst of it.

“It was a really scary situation for us,” said Breann Bogt.

Asher Bogt is now four years old and happy as can be, but in 2019 after already having compromised lungs, the flu took over his little body.

“Within 20 minutes he had a 98 temperature, normal, to 102, and we were calling the ambulance,” Bogt said. “The EMTs had to administer oxygen for him to keep him breathing and help him recover.”

Bogt said severe pediatric flu can be so devastating, and this past year, it was a record-breaking season for pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. with 189 kids dying from September of 2019 to September of 2020, according to the CDC.

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In Arizona, the state health department said we had five pediatric flu deaths this past season, compared to zero the season before. “It seems that the severity of that flu virus this past year was a little stronger, more severe than past cases, past years,” said Valleywise hospital pediatrician Salil Pradhan.

Dr. Pradhan said he often sees similar symptoms in kids who have a severe flu.

“It’s your typical cough, cold, congestion, certainly the progression to pneumonia where they have a lot more difficulty breathing,” he said. “One of the more interesting things really is the muscle aches that you get with influenza, and a lot of times in the legs especially.”

He said kids who end up dying from the flu generally develop either viral or bacterial pneumonia with it. But, he said this season is about to be a whole new beast. “COVID unfortunately has had the high fevers that flu has had as well so I don’t know parents are going to be able to tell the difference based on the symptoms their kids are showing,” Dr. Pradhan said.

Both Bogt and Dr. Pradhan said parents need to act right away, especially during the pandemic. “Even a low grade fever is something to watch,” Bogt said.

“Calling their pediatrician, coming to the emergency department and having their kids tested is really going to be the most important thing,” said Dr. Pradhan.

Dr. Pradhan said more often than not kids will have the flu over COVID-19, but he said it's important to test for which one it is so they can treat it correctly right from the bat, like giving kids Tamiflu in the first 48 hours of having flu symptoms.


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