Cold, Flu, or Covid-19: Knowing The One You Have

Cold, Flu, or Covid-19: Knowing The One You Have

As we approach the winter season, there have been more worries about dealing with the flu and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lasted more than a year. Since the trio of COVID-19, Cold, and Flu are viral infections that share common symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and fever, it becomes incredibly confusing and worrisome to identify which of the three infections you're infected with.

This post tries to distinguish the best way to tell any infectious respiratory diseases apart and how best to protect yourself. 

What Causes The Common Cold?

The common cold is an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat); a group of viruses called Rhinovirus causes it.

Every year in the UK and other parts of the world, millions of people get infected with the common cold virus, and an adult can suffer from two to three common cold infections yearly. At the same time, children usually have more infections than adults, especially during winter.

How Is Common Cold Transmitted?

The virus is present in an infected body fluid such as mucor and saliva, And it is usually transmitted via air (airborne infections) from an infected person through breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking, or singing.

Also, as a healthy person, you can get infected by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and touching your face. This is a similar way by which the much dreaded COVID-19 virus is transmitted.

What Are The Symptoms Of The Common Cold?

Symptoms of common cold often start with a sore throat; usually, a day after infection, followed by:

  • A runny nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • headache
  • and sometimes, body aches.

Recovery from the common cold and its symptoms takes about 7 to 10 days, but it can last beyond ten days for people with weakened immune systems. It may lead to severe respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis.

COVID-19 has similar symptoms with cold and flu, but a person suffering from COVID-19 will likely experience a sudden loss of taste and smell. This is often considered as the first sign of COVID-19, according to research published in the National Library of Medicine. Other symptoms can include feelings of tightening around the chest and shortness of breath.

Children and teens are less likely to develop symptoms of COVID-19 if they are infected; thus, if they may likely be infected with common cold or flu if they show some of the symptoms mentioned above. 

How Can You Treat The Common Cold?

There is no treatment for the common cold, but the following tips can help you combat the common cold.

  • Keep yourself hydrated
  • Use Over counter drugs to treat cough, runny nose, aches, pains, and fevers.

COVID-19 Infection: Causes and Symptoms

COVID-19 is a novel respiratory infection said to have originated in the Wuhan province of China in December 2019. if was initially thought to be a rare kind of cold or flu, but was later caused by a deadly virus identified as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus-2).

COVID-19 is a widespread infection, with the UK recording more than 8 million infections, with more than 138,000 deaths so far.

Mode of Transmission of COVID-19

Since COVID-19 is an airborne viral infection, it has the same mode of transmission as common cold and flu; hence the recommended use of face mask and strict observance of personal hygiene including washing of hands with soap and water and use of hand sanitiser.

The World Health Organization classifies COVID-19 symptoms into three groups:

Most Common Symptoms

  • loss of taste and smell
  • tiredness or fatigue
  • cough
  • fever

Less common symptoms

  • sore throat
  • headache and pains
  • irritated/red eyes
  • skin rash
  • finger or toe discolouration
  • diarrhoea

Life-threatening symptoms

  • difficulty in breathing/shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • speech loss, loss of mobility
  • confusion or disillusion

Due to similarities shared by common cold and flu symptoms, most people assume a flu infection is a COVID-19 infection; however, people infected with COVID-19 show more severe life-threatening diseases, especially in the older populations with underlying health conditions.

What Causes Flu, And How Can You Tell It Apart From COVID-19?

According to the BMJ, the UK is expected to experience lower colds and flu due to social distancing practices. Flu is caused by the Influenza viruses (flu). It is also transmitted similarly to the common cold and COVID-19; however, the flu shows milder symptoms than COVID-19, but it is more severe than the common cold.

However, the UK experienced a relatively low level of flu cases between 2020 and 2021, most probably due to cautiousness on the part of health officials in interpreting COVID-19 indicators as a reflection of influenza activities. 

How is flu transmitted?

Common cold, flu, and COVID-19 are viral infections of the respiratory tract; therefore, they share standard modes of transmission. Flu viruses present in respiratory droplets are transmitted through the air to a healthy person or by touching infected surfaces; hence, the need to self-isolate yourself if you're infected with flu, common cold, or COVID-19.

People get infected, especially when close to infected individuals talking, singing, kissing, or hugging. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Body ache
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • prolonged fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea, stomach ache and sometimes lack of appetite in children.

Differentiating Between Flu And COVID-19

Since both flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, it is hard to tell the two apart; hence, a test is often recommended to confirm if you're suffering from flu or COVID-19. A recommended test is the PCR test which has the highest test result accuracy.

People with mild flu infections do not need treatment; however, Tamiflu and other prescribed antiviral drugs treat severe flu infections.

Protecting yourself from Cold, Flu, and COVID-19 in the Winter season

As we approach the winter season, the following steps are measures you can take to protect yourself, family, friends, and others from COVID-19, flu, and common cold infections.

  • Get both flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Use facemask correctly and consistently, especially when outdoors in public places.
  • keep your distance from people outside your home, especially people who show visible signs of COVID-19, flu, and the common cold
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for more than 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser with more than 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid closed and crowded places.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes and touching your nose and mouth without washing or disinfecting your hands.
  • Clean surfaces such as doorknobs, railings, electronics, counters, switches, etc., daily with disinfectants.
  • Eat healthily and take lots of fluid to keep your body hydrated.