Friday, September 22, 2023

How To Tell If It’s A Cold Or Flu

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How To Protect Yourself

Cold, flu or coronavirus symptoms? How to tell if its Covid-19

As Gulick points out, getting booster shots is crucial. He also says that on top of vaccines, its important people wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid indoor crowds whenever possible. Testing, if you suspect you have COVID, can help curb spread and protect others. And if you are sick, or suspect you could be sick, stay home.

Babcock acknowledges that there is social fatigue with the pandemic and its safety precautionsbut says they remain important. When we let our guards down and skip out on booster appointments or throw away masks, we are giving the virus more opportunities to spread.

Wearing a mask is not really that hard getting a vaccine and getting a booster is, for most people now, fairly accessible, she said. Taking those steps will really help. Even now, for people who haven’t gotten vaccinated, they can still benefit from vaccination.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

Wintery Mix Of Viruses

Winter is the prime cold and flu season. Youre more likely to be indoors and closer to others when its colder outside. Weather also plays a role in the spread of viruses.

Cold and flu viruses survive better and are more transmissible if its cooler and if theres lower humidity, Gordon explains.

Experts are concerned that flu and COVID-19 cases may increase and overlap in the winter. Flu cases usually start to increase around October and peak between December and February. Being infected with flu and SARS-CoV-2 at the same time is possible, as is showing symptoms of both.

If youre sick with the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs. Such drugs can make your flu milder and shorten the time you are sick. They work best if theyre used early in your illness.

The FDA has also approved one antiviral drug, called remdesivir, to treat COVID-19. Other treatments are in development and under review. No complementary approaches have been shown to be helpful for fighting off flu or COVID-19.

Fortunately, strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also prevent the spread of flu and cold. Measures like masking and social distancing work for other respiratory viruses, as well as COVID-19, says Dr. Chip Walter, who studies vaccine development at Duke University.

When Symptoms Appear For Covid


Typically, a person experiences symptoms about five days after being infected, according to the CDC. However, symptoms can also appear 2 to 14 days after infection.

A person infected with the flu experiences symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection.

Common cold

A person can start seeing symptoms from a common cold between 1 to 3 days after infection.

“One of the bigger differences that you may see also is when did these symptoms start? With a cold, typically it takes 48 hours. You may have been exposed over the weekend and then by Tuesday youre like, I dont feel well. So we typically look at when were you exposed and then when did your symptoms start. If its kind of at that five-day period, thats when we start getting concerned about COVID,” Flinn said.

“With common colds as well as with flu, typically you are contagious maybe one day before youre symptomatic. And with COVID, weve had that same thing, we have asymptomatic spreaders. And its really difficult to really categorize everyone into youre really contagious, but everyone knows that youre contagious or infectious when you are showing those symptoms because youre producing more respiratory droplets,” Flinn said, adding that preventative measures like hand washing and staying home when you’re sick are key.

And for those who are immunocompromised, it could be beneficial to extend the 10 days to 14 days or even three weeks, Finn said.

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Can Antibiotics Help My Flu Symptoms

Antibiotics cannot help flu symptoms. The flu is caused by a virus, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics needlessly may increase your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. If you get a secondary bacterial infection with the flu virus, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the secondary infection.

For more information, see Flu Treatment: Antibiotics or Not?

Show Sources

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu.”Ã

CDC: “2011-2012 Influenza Season: Disease Activity ” “If You Have a Cold or Flu, Antibiotics Won’t Work For You! ” and “Seasonal Influenza: What You Should Know about Flu Antiviral Drugs.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Flu Facts ” “Antibiotics: When They Can and Can’t Help” and “Cough Medicine: Understanding Your OTC Options.”

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Common Cold: Treatment.”

WebMD Medical Reference: “Kids’ Cold Medicines: New Guidelines.”

What Is The Difference Between Influenza And Covid

How To Tell If You Have The Flu Or A Cold &  What You Can ...

Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 should slow down. More information is available about COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work.

Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, there are still things, such as post-COVID conditions, that are unknown. This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

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When To Test For Covid

It is often good to address your suspicions of COVID-19 by taking a test, although when you do it makes a difference.

If you are feeling symptoms, now is the time to take a test, El-Sayed said.

For those who have been exposed but aren’t feeling symptoms, there is a possibility that the virus hasn’t developed enough to show up on a rapid test, he explained. In those cases, it is best to wait five days after exposure before testing and to remain on the lookout, according to the CDC.

“Just because you get a negative test doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Covid,” El-Sayed said. “The best approach is to test and then maybe test again in 12 to 24 hours, and if you get two negatives, you can be more certain that it’s not.”

Whether it is COVID-19 or the common cold, it has always been a good idea to isolate while you fight a viral illness, he said. It has become even more important with the risk of spread increasing with Covid-19.

Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:

  • you’re worried about your baby’s or child’s symptoms
  • you’re 65 or over
  • you’re pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
  • your symptoms do not improve after 7 days

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to or call 111.

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Should I Get A Flu Shot

Yes. Influenza is still a dangerous virus and flu shots, while not perfect, still help a great deal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that, with rare exceptions, everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every season. Public health experts say vaccination is vital to protect individuals, communities and to avoid burdening already overtaxed health care systems.

“The big risk here is that our healthcare system has limited capacity. In the winter, it usually hits that capacity in many places absent COVID, and flu is often a big contributor,” Dan Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety and a professor in the Department of International Health at Hopkins University said during a press briefing.

If you are prone to catching the flu or colds, you may consider adapting some of the measures used to prevent COVID. Last year influenza virtually disappeared, in large part because of widespread adherence to COVID safety measures social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer in a pinch.

  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

  • Stay 6 feet from people outside the home.

Can Influenza And Covid

How To Tell If You Have A Cold, The Flu Or Coronavirus | TODAY

While distinguishing between the common cold and a mild case of Covid-19 is difficult based on symptoms alone, infectious diseases experts said flu is more likely to produce different indicators.

Flu can be a more severe illness with aches and pains, said Dr Freedman.

In particular, influenza may cause a person to develop muscle pain and back pain, said Prof Petersen, symptoms that are not typically associated with Covid-19, especially when it is caused by the Omicron variant.

If you really have influenza, you have fever and general muscle pain, he said, adding that a loss of smell sometimes seen with Covid-19 is typically not found with flu.

As well as an aching body, the NHS said that flu symptoms, which may arise rapidly, can include a sudden increase in body temperature , feeling tired or exhausted, a dry cough, a sore throat and a headache, among others.

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What Is The Seasonal Flu

Influenza or the flu, as its better known is another upper respiratory illness. Unlike a cold, which can hit at any time of year, the flu is generally seasonal. Flu season usually runs from fall to spring, peaking during the winter months.

During flu season, you can catch the flu in the same way youd pick up a cold: By coming into contact with droplets spread by an infected person. Youre contagious starting one day before you get sick and up to 5 to 7 days after you show symptoms.

The seasonal flu is caused by the influenza A, B, and C viruses, with influenza A and B being the most common types. Active strains of influenza virus vary from year to year. Thats why a new flu vaccine is developed each year.

Unlike the common cold, the flu can develop into a more serious condition, such as pneumonia. This is especially true for:

  • young children
  • older adults
  • pregnant women

When Should You Get Tested

“One of the biggest things is you want to avoid self-diagnosing. That means if you’re displaying any symptoms, you want to go ahead and get tested,” Torres said. And, again, you should assume you have COVID-19 until your test says otherwise.

When you get tested, depending on your symptoms and what your COVID-19 test results are, you might also get tested for the flu or strep throat.

The best home treatments for any of these illnesses depend on the exact symptoms you’re experiencing. Torres shared some advice about over-the-products that can help, but always check with your health care provider first.

  • Fever and body aches: Use pain- and fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Congestion: For a stuffy nose, use an over-the-counter decongestant like guaifenesin .
  • Fatigue: Make sure you stay hydrated, get enough electrolytes and rest up. “Sleep is one of your biggest aids you can use right now that lets your body recuperate and regenerate itself so it can protect you and it keeps your immune system strong,” Torres said.
  • Difficulty breathing: If you experience any difficulty breathing or shortness of breath or if your symptoms get worse rather than improving, you should speak with a doctor, Torres said.

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Check If You Have Flu

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden high temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.

Differences between cold and flu

Appears quickly within a few hours Appears gradually
Affects more than just your nose and throat Affects mainly your nose and throat
Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal Makes you feel unwell, but you’re OK to carry on as normal

Is It A Cold The Flu Or Covid How To Tell Sniffles And Chills Apart This Holiday Season

How do you know if its a cold or the flu?

The common cold made an early appearance this summer with an unprecedented uptick of respiratory viruses. Since then, health care providers say cases havent slowed down.

You should never underestimate the repertoire and timing of viruses because theyre always around, said Dr. Len Horovitz, internist and pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Im seeing just as many colds as I saw this summer, thats not dying.

Although milder than a typical pre-pandemic winter, the colder months havent stopped seasonal viruses like the flu from joining SARS-COV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19 making it harder for Americans to know what they have when they wake up with the sniffles.

Cold symptoms are generally less severe than COVID-19 or the flu, said Dr. Manoj Gandhi, senior medical director for genetic testing solutions at Thermo Fisher Scientific. But breakthrough infections of COVID-19 in vaccinated people typically result in mild symptoms that are easy to confuse.

“When people get vaccinations for the flu , the whole point of the vaccine is that it makes the disease less severe,” he said. “You get a muted response to the virus … seeing a mild fever, maybe some weakness here and there.”

Many cold, flu and COVID-19 symptoms overlap: fever, runny nose, sore throat, coughing and general fatigue. Experts say the only symptom that may distinguish a nasty cold from COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell.

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What Are ‘long Covid’ And ‘long Flu’

Some people experience longer-term COVID-19 and flu symptoms, commonly known as “long COVID” or “long flu.” Long COVID can include shortness of breath, headaches, chest pains, fatigue and other COVID-19 symptoms that linger for weeks or months. Long flu symptoms can consist of a prolonged cough, sore throat, body aches and other symptoms lasting longer than five to seven days.

A PLOS Medicine survey found that long COVID is more likely than long flu. Those that had a severe case of COVID-19 or were hospitalized due to the virus were more likely to experience symptoms longer, but most resolved within the first six months.

How Effective Are Flu Jabs And Should I Get One

The influenza virus that causes flu mutates quickly and can jump between species, causing rapid changes that can help it evade immune responses. New flu vaccines are made each year to target the strains of influenza that are currently circulating. However, because the jab is based on predictions, effectiveness can vary.

Despite this uncertainty, the flu jab is very safe and is still the best way to protect yourself and others against the flu. The vaccine reduces your risk of contracting and spreading major flu strains. Even if you are unlucky and still contract the flu after getting the jab, it is likely to be much milder than if you were unvaccinated. Even though vaccination may not be 100% effective, it is still well worth getting your flu jab.

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How Is It Treated

Some of the same antiviral drugs that are used to treat seasonal flu also work against H1N1 swine flu. Oseltamivir , peramivir , and zanamivir seem to work best, although some kinds of swine flu dont respond to oseltamivir.

These drugs can help you get well faster. They can also make you feel better. They work best when you take them within 48 hours of the first flu symptoms, but they can help even if you get them later on.

Antibiotics won’t do anything for you. Thats because flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

Over-the-counter pain remedies and cold and flu medications can help relieve aches, pains, and fever. Don’t give aspirin to children under age 18 because of the risk of Reyes syndrome. Make sure that over-the-counter cold medications do not have aspirin before giving them to children.


Which Treatment Should I Use For Nasal Congestion

Is it a cold? The flu? Or coronavirus? Here’s how you can tell

If you need immediate relief for swollen, congested nasal passages, you may get relief with an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray. It is important to stop using decongestant nasal sprays after three days to avoid the development of rebound congestion.

Some doctors suggest using a saline spray instead of a medicated spray. Saline sprays loosen thick mucus in the nasal passageways but have no rebound effect. They may be used for extended periods of time without significant side effects.

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