Coronavirus: Possible symptoms that can tell if you have COVID-19, cold or the flu

Is it COVID, the flu, or the common cold?

We have all dealt with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. After over two years of battling the deadly virus, we’re finally at a stage where the end may be ‘in sight’, as the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus puts it. But that is not to say that COVID is over. People are still getting infected and developing mild to moderate illness, some are even succumbing to the disease.

With winter at our doorstep, chances of getting infected with the flu and common cold are also high. All three are contagious and communicable and share symptoms that can make it difficult for people to distinguish between them. That said, in this article, we will not only look at differentiating factors between cold, COVID and flu, but will also lay down the possible symptoms key to each disease.

How to determine whether you have a cold, the flu or COVID?

According to the Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus. In comparison, while symptoms of a common cold usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus, flu symptoms usually appear about one to four days after exposure to an influenza virus.

Although all these three illnesses are transmissible, COVID-19 can cause more-serious illnesses in some people than the flu or a cold. In the past, the novel coronavirus has been linked to complications such as blood clots and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, as per the health body.

On the contrary and fortunately, the common cold is harmless and flu, although concerning, can be managed with proper treatment.

Possible symptoms of common cold

A common cold is an infection of the nose and throat, which makes the upper respiratory tract. While it is not very concerning, it can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

Possible symptoms of the flu

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu as an infection of the respiratory tract that can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, which is the body’s most dangerous response to the infection. Most cases are however mild, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Fever or chills/feeling feverish
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Possible symptoms of COVID

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 can be wide-ranging. These include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion/runny nose
  • Nausea/vomiting

What measures should you take?

Even though COVID-19 has taken a milder turn, it is still transmissible. Similarly, common cold and the flu are also contagious and can spread from person to person. This is why wearing well-fitted masks is key to curbing the spread of respiratory infections. Furthermore, maintaining social distance, following proper hand hygiene and getting yourself vaccinated for not just COVID but also flu is important.

Get tested if you still can’t determine

If you’re still confused about your symptoms and cannot come to a conclusion about your diagnosis, then you can always choose to get yourself tested for COVID. Irrespective of what you have been infected with, make sure to isolate yourself until your reports come out as negative. COVID, flu or the cold, people in the high-risk groups are still vulnerable.

Source: Coronavirus: Possible symptoms that can tell if you have COVID-19, cold or the flu



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