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September 18, 2021

Cold, Flu Or COVID-19? Here’s How To Tell The Difference

You wake up one morning feeling under the weather. While in previous years you may have chalked up a sore throat or body aches to a run-of-the-mill cold or flu,  however, this COVID-19 pandemic added a new element of concern to getting sick.

There is significant overlap between symptoms of influenza and COVID -19, according to medical experts ”but both can present with fevers, chills, cough, muscle/body aches, fatigue and headache.”

And here are simple ways to differentiate between cold, flu or Covid-19 however one can still be Covid-19 positive without any of the symptoms especially in the second and third wave that many African countries are currently battling with.

Is it a cold, the flu or COVID?

Cold symptoms are mild and the common cold tends not to be associated with fever or headache.

Congestion/runny nose is common for the common cold and would be uncommon to be the only symptom for influenza. Congestion/runny nose can be a symptom of a COVID infection and might be the only symptom in mild cases.

Flu symptoms are often of rapid onset. COVID symptoms can be of rapid or more gradual onset.

One symptom that is more unique to a COVID infection is the loss of taste or smell.

Should I get a test?

Health experts advise that in many cases, the only way to tell the difference between COVID and influenza is by testing. The differentiation can be very important as there are isolation requirements to prevent transmission of COVID and antivirals that can be used for influenza.

Colds and COVID-19 have some similarities. Both develop as a result of a respiratory virus, spreading from person to person through droplets that come from the nose and mouth. However, it is important to remember that they are different.

A person can develop COVID-19 as a result of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a type of coronavirus. There are four trusted Source coronaviruses that most often cause the common cold in humans. SARS-CoV-2, however, causes a different illness.

Compared with colds, COVID-19:

  • has a longer trusted Source potential incubation period
  • causes more varied symptoms
  • has a higher risk of complications and fatality
Symptoms of the common cold vs. COVID-19

The common cold can cause:

  • a runny or stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • reduced sense of smell or taste
  • cough
  • tiredness

These symptoms can also occur in people with COVID-19. However, COVID-19 can also cause;

  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • dry cough
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • muscle or body aches
  • new loss of smell or taste
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Many of these symptoms, including fever, body aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms, are uncommon in people with colds. They are more likely to be the result of COVID-19 or another viral illness, such as influenza, commonly known as flu.

Not everyone with COVID-19 experiences all of these symptoms. Some people may have similar symptoms to a cold, with no fever. Others may only have a loss of smell or taste, and some may have no symptoms at all.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, some other less common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • skin rashes
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • chills
  • dizziness
  • irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • sleep disruption

You should consider COVID testing.  If you have had a known close contact exposure to someone with COVID, you should be tested even if you have one mild symptom. There is a low threshold for COVID testing given the risk of transmission to others.  Once influenza season begins, your doctor may also wish to test you for flu.

How can you tell the difference?

For people with mild to moderate symptoms, there is no reliable way to tell colds and COVID-19 apart based on symptoms alone.

Some signs that could indicate an illness is COVID-19 rather than a cold include:

  • fever or chills
  • dry cough
  • shortness of breath

However, a fever can also indicate flu, pneumonia, or another infection or illness. As a result, it is best to seek testing if COVID-19 is a possibility.

What to do

Anyone who thinks they could have COVID-19 should contact their local health authority or doctor. A healthcare professional will be able to provide advice on what to do next and may arrange a COVID-19 test. People should not visit a medical facility without contacting it first.

If a person has symptoms such as a fever, cough, or loss of taste or smell, the Ministry of health recommends

  • staying at home
  • isolating oneself from the rest of the household, using a separate bedroom and bathroom where possible
  • wearing a face mask that covers the nose and mouth if living with other people or pets
  • washing the hands regularly with soap for 20 seconds, particularly after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, or handling food
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that people touch often, such as door handles
  • monitoring symptoms and contacting a doctor if they worsen

People with the symptoms of a cold who are unwell for over 1o days or who are experiencing severe or unusual symptoms should also seek medical advice.

Should I call the doctor?

If you have any chronic medical conditions or are over the age of 65, you are at higher risk of getting a severe COVID infection and should call your doctor, call your doctor for a fever that does not go down with fever-reducing medicine (do not use aspirin as it is contraindicated in influenza) or any severe symptoms or symptoms that get worse over time. contact the ministry of health on these toll-free lines and get urgent help [0800100066/0800203033]. People with the symptoms of a cold who are unwell for over 1o days or who are experiencing severe or unusual symptoms should also seek medical advice.

Getting a Covid-19  vaccine shot as soon as possible is particularly important to reduce potential  COVID-19 which could further overwhelm the healthcare system.

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