So, you have a cold. Fever. Sore throat.
Coronavirus? Or the flu?
As we approach the flu season, it’s hard to tell the difference – even for doctors.
“Both the flu and COVID can cause headaches, they can cause coughing, you can get tired and body aches,”; said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Health in Flint. “It will be extremely difficult to tell the difference just by looking at someone, and people will need lab tests to help them understand this.
“To make it even more confusing, just because you have the flu doesn’t mean you can’t get the COVID virus,” Cunningham said. “In March last year, some studies said that up to 10% or 15% of people became infected with more than one virus at a time.”
It is easier to distinguish an allergy from a coronavirus, he said. “Allergies are usually associated with the common cold. You should not have a temperature; you really shouldn’t have any pain in your body, and more importantly, if you’re taking allergy medication, your symptoms should improve. “
The most obvious symptom that indicates a coronavirus is a loss of taste and smell that does not occur with the flu or allergies, said Dr. Christopher Brenner, a primary care physician at Spectrum Health.
“When people report a sudden loss of sense of smell when they can’t taste it, you can put the steam that it’s most likely a coronavirus,” he said. “Another thing about coronavirus is sometimes diarrhea, which is a clear sign.”
And although both the flu and the coronavirus are respiratory diseases, the coronavirus is much more likely to cause wheezing and shortness of breath, Brenner said.
In addition to the symptoms themselves, there are some important differences between the flu and COVID-19, Brenner added.
For example, people usually suffer from flu symptoms within a few days of contact with the virus, whereas COVID-19 can take up to two weeks.
Coronavirus is also much more contagious than the flu and has a higher mortality rate, so it is important for people with symptoms to be screened so they can identify others who may have been exposed.
If people think they have the flu or coronavirus, they may want to have a virtual doctor’s appointment compared to a doctor’s office or emergency room where they can expose others, doctors say. Brenner noted that the Spectrum telemedicine service allows patients to receive laboratory test orders without consulting a doctor in person.
Concerns about the approaching flu season to a pandemic are forcing doctors and health departments to urge people to get the flu vaccine this year.
“Those who used to be on the fence about the flu vaccine really need to consider it this year,” Brenner said.
The potential benefits of a pandemic: The strategies people use to prevent the coronavirus, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and hand hygiene, can lead to a fairly mild flu season, experts say. This is especially true if more people are getting the flu shot.
“Wearing a mask protects us not only from COVID, but also from many other respiratory viral diseases,” said Dr. Trini Matthew, an infectious disease specialist at Beaumont Health in the Detroit subway. “Same with hand hygiene. So you get more money for your money by taking all these preventative measures. “
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