Is it the flu, COVID or a cold?

Is it the flu, COVID or a cold?

If your throat starts to itch or you feel fatigued, how will you know which virus you have? This is an important question, as treatments for the flu, COVID-19, and the common cold are different, and passing COVID-19 to a family member can have more serious consequences than transmitting a milder coronavirus that causes the flu. common cold, for example.

So far this fall, all signs point to a worrying flu seasonwith the total number of people hospitalized in the week ending October 29 higher than every previous year at this point in the season since the 2010-2011 flu season, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 also remains a threat in the US, with approximately 350 deaths in the US per day.

Due to the potential for COVID-19 to be deadly for some people, you should isolate yourself while you feel sick or until you get the results of a test. covid-19 test, They are easily available these days in drug stores and online. Influenza, which causes the flu, can also be very serious or even deadly for certain people, including older adults and very young children. To be sure, you must forever stay home when you feel sick if possible, especially if you have a fever, which is a sign that your body is actively fighting some kind of infection.

Whether you’re feeling sick or not, it’s a good time to understand the differences between the three illnesses and what specific symptoms might mean. We also spoke with medical experts to learn the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from illness this season.

Whether you’re feeling sick or not, it’s a good time to understand the differences between the three illnesses and what specific symptoms might mean. We also spoke with medical experts to learn the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from illness this season.

Symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, the common cold, and RSV commonly overlap in adults

Although COVID-19, influenza, and colds are caused by different viruses, many of their symptoms overlap. It is also possible to be infected with more than one virus at the same time. As some people’s immune systems get better at fighting COVID-19 through vaccinations, booster doses, previous infections, and the availability of antivirals like Paxlovidillnesses can become milder, and some are more likely to overlook a COVID-19 infection as a cold.

Although loss of smell and taste was the single defining symptom of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, it is less common with the currently dominant omicron variant. The only way to diagnose your illness with certainty is to test for both the flu and COVID-19.

In very young children, RSV can cause symptoms in addition to breathing problems or cold- or flu-like symptoms. Fussiness, losing interest in playing, or seeming more tired than usual can be symptoms of RSV in infants and young children. You may read more about RSV in children here.

What are the common symptoms of the flu and COVID-19?

Many respiratory illnesses begin with similar symptoms. It may not be easy to tell right away if you’re sick with the flu or COVID-19, but here are some of the symptoms they both share.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Throat pain
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Body pain
  • Fatigue

If you feel sick with any of these symptoms, it is best to isolate yourself immediately. You can spread the flu and COVID-19 one day after being infected. Keep in mind that these symptoms may be signs of other viruses, such as those that cause the common cold, or RSV. Call your primary care provider if you have questions and what are the best steps to take.

Remember that COVID-19 is not just a respiratory illness, but can also affect other body systems, including the heart, brain, and nerves. Scientists and medical experts are still defining the range of possible damage from COVID-19.

What are the most common symptoms of COVID-19 right now?

Generally speaking, it’s hard to pin down the “most common” symptom of COVID-19, because the virus that causes it changes slightly with each mutation, and people now have different levels of immunity based on their vaccination history, previous infections, and individual health. . . But Zoe, a health sciences company, has been collecting the most common symptoms in people with COVID-19 through the company’s COVID Study app. As of October 20, Zoe reports the following five main symptoms in people who have received two vaccines:

  • Throat pain
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • persistent cough
  • Headache

While these are all flu-like symptoms, if you experience any of these symptoms in the next few weeks, it may be a strong indicator that you have COVID-19.

What are the differences between the flu and COVID-19?

The two most notable differences between COVID-19 and the flu are the time it takes for symptoms to appear and the loss of taste and smell. It’s usually takes a little longer for COVID-19 symptoms to present after exposure: two to five days (but up to 14) for COVID-19 versus one to four days for the flu, according to the CDC.

the loss of taste and smell it is a specific symptom of COVID-19 that is not usually associated with the flu. However, this symptom was more frequent with the first variants of COVID-19 and does not seem to be as common with the different versions of omicron.

Another difference between the two viruses is that you could be contagious longer with COVID-19 than you would be with the flu. According to the CDC, older children and adults with the flu are most contagious during the third or fourth day of symptoms, while people with COVID-19 are contagious, on average, for eight days after symptoms begin.

Flu and COVID-19 symptoms can lead to hospitalization and death. Dr. David Hamer, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and a physician at Boston Medical Center, agreed that the symptoms aren’t immediately easy to tell apart. “Clinically, it’s going to be harder for an individual to tell apart. COVID is a little more likely to progress to severe disease, but certainly influenza can kill,” Hamer said.

COVID-19 Home Test Kit

A home test for COVID-19 can help determine your illness.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

How do I know if I have a cold or something worse?

The symptoms of the common cold are also similar to those of COVID-19 and the flu, but there are some differences. Fevers aren’t as common with a cold, for example, and COVID-19 and the flu are more likely to put you out of commission, fatigue-wise, for longer than a cold. You’re also less likely to feel “pain” when you have a cold, as another example of the Mayo Clinic.

As with COVID-19, you may notice symptoms like cough, sore throat, and runny nose. But common colds usually also come with sneezing, watery eyes, and postnasal drip.

Common colds usually resolve on their own with no further health complications and can often be treated with over-the-counter medications.

“If there’s a fever, body aches or chills, that would make me more concerned about other respiratory illnesses, like the flu or COVID,” said Dr. Daniel Solomon, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Since the COVID-19 vaccine helps prevent severe symptoms, the most common signs of a cold can still be COVID, he added.

Because of this, Solomon has guided his patients and families to pay close attention to their usual allergy symptoms and get a diagnostic test if they notice anything less common.

What is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and the flu?

The best protection against COVID-19 and the flu is vaccination. medical experts tip that you can safely receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines simultaneously. That includes the new upgraded boosters. You can also contact your doctor as soon as you develop any respiratory symptoms, so you can get the appropriate antiviral treatments or other care, if needed. This is especially important if you are an older adult or have an underlying medical condition (or have a very young child), as you may be at higher risk for serious illness.

Beyond getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public, washing your hands before eating or touching your face, avoiding crowds indoors and people who have symptoms are tried-and-true ways to reduce your risk of contracting a respiratory virus.

What are other common illnesses similar to COVID-19 and the flu?

If you have a cough, sore throat, or other symptoms of respiratory illness, it may not be COVID-19, the flu, or a cold. There are other common diseases with similar symptoms.

  • sinus infections
  • strep throat
  • bronchiolitis
  • Asthma

If you have tested negative for COVID-19 and the flu, it is best to check with your primary care provider. Some doctors will run a respiratory pathogen panel to determine which viruses or bacteria are causing you to feel sick.

CNET contributor Mercey Livingston contributed to this article.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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