How to Tell if You Have the Cold, Flu or COVID- 19

How to Tell if You Have the Cold, Flu or COVID- 19

You wake up in the morning with that telltale scratchy throat. Or your body starts to ache uncharacteristically during the day. Or you realize that what was a slight, nagging headache has become constant. In short, you're coming down with something. But what is it, exactly?

 

This year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it's even more nerve-wracking than usual to suffer any kind of illness. So how do you tell what you might have, and if it warrants a doctor's visit?

 

The Common Cold

What we know as the "common cold" is an upper-respiratory infection caused by any one of 200 viruses including rhinoviruses, coronaviruses (not the novel COVID-19 but pre-existing ones), and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). You've likely experienced a cold at some point, if not many times, in your life.

 

Key symptoms include:

- Sore throat

- Runny nose

- Sneezing

- Nasal congestion

- Mucous discharge (yellow or green)

- Cough

- Mild body aches

- Overall feeling of malaise

 

You generally don't need to see a physician for a cold. But if you develop wheezing, shortness of breath, a fever greater than 101.3F, odd drowsiness, or severe pain in your throat, head, or sinuses, you should go to urgent care.

 

The Flu

The flu, a potentially serious respiratory illness, often begins the same way a cold does. But the symptoms progress much more rapidly. It often feels like it comes on suddenly rather than develops gradually throughout the day. One second you feel fine and the next you want to crawl into bed.

 

Key symptoms include:

- Sore throat

- Nasal congestion

- Shortness of breath

- Fever over 100.4F (38C)

- Body aches

- Chills and sweats

- Headache

- Dry cough

- Fatigue

- Weakness

 

The flu shot is your best defense against the flu, but even if you've had the flu shot, call your doctor if you have these symptoms, especially if they're severe or if you're high-risk. The vaccine only contains three or four different strains of the flu, and the viruses are highly mutable and change throughout the year, so it's possible to contract a different strain. Urgent care will run a rapid 15-minute test for A and B strains of the flu, and your doctor can prescribe antivirals that will also shorten the course of the illness.

 

Flu vaccines are now available at both CityMD and Summit Medical Group.

 

COVID-19

Ranging from mild to life-threatening, COVID-19 mimics the cold and flu in some ways, but in others it's very different. While you may at first feel like you have a simple respiratory illness, certain symptoms should put you on alert.

 

Key symptoms include:

- Fever or chills

- Cough

- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

- Fatigue

- Muscle or body aches

- Headache

- New loss of taste or smell

- Sore throat

- Congestion or runny nose

- Nausea or vomiting

- Diarrhea

 

If you have these symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible at a CityMD location or a Summit Medical Group Urgent Care Center.

 

And keep watch for signs of worsening symptoms, including difficulty breathing, confusion, pain or pressure in the chest, an inability to stay awake, and/or bluish lips. These are indicators of an emergency, and a person experiencing these symptoms needs to go to the hospital.