Is It Flu, Common Cold, or Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

How to Differentiate among Coronavirus, Common Cold, and Flu?

Since the discovery of the coronavirus disease or the COVID-19 in Wuhan in December 2019, this virus has spread across the globe like an epidemic. The more worrisome part is that its early symptoms are similar to those of colds and flu. This may make its detection a little more difficult.

This makes people worried about seasonal maladies like flu at the expense of this lethal virus. This often causes panic and stress on local healthcare services. We are offering this article to help you know the difference among the three virus strains leading to the common cold, flu, and coronavirus.

Corona Symptoms vs Common Cold

Despite a marked resemblance in the early symptoms, common cold and COVID-19 share some key differences. These three maladies are caused by three highly infectious virus strains but the last one among them has proved deadly because of a “spiked” protein mutation.

Spiked Protein in COVID-19 and SARS:

To those who may not understand, the unique thing about this spiked protein strain is that it mutates very fast. It can attach itself to the cells in the body, causing huge damage, sucking out the proteins, and eating up the white blood cells, thus reducing immunity.

News update:

Several countries like the US, UK, Russia, and India have launched their corona vaccines for the general public or are in the process of doing so. The situation is now seemingly better in December 2020 because the coronavirus symptoms have not changed throughout the year and the recovery rate among the patients is also higher. The World Health Organization expects to find a stable cure for the epidemic after Q2 2021.

News Update in 2021:

Several countries around the world have developed their vaccines to cure COVID-19. Some of the countries that are at the frontrunner are India, the US, China, Russia, France, and England. Other countries like Brazil and Japan are fast catching up too. Some of the most popular vaccine manufacturers are Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer- BioNTech, Sinopharm, Moderna, Janssen, Sputnik V, etc.

Comparing Coronavirus Symptoms to Common Cold Symptoms

Symptoms of coronavirus disease or COVID-19
  • Sneezing

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Coughing

  • Post-nasal drip

  • Watery eyes

In rare cases, several symptoms of cold like runny nose, stuffy nose, and cough might last for up to 10 to 14 days, and the patient keeps on improving during that time. Most patients just get well by taking herb-based teas and a few antibiotics.

Expert’s tip: If you are suffering from seasonal cold and cough, here is why you should go to the gym!

The coronavirus symptoms go from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. It is quite evident that you already know the people are dying because of this virus all over the world. Symptoms of the coronavirus or COVID-19 typically appear two to 14 days after exposure.

They can be:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lack of smell

  • Weakness

These symptoms are the most common ones. There have been reports of severe illness and death because of coronavirus, though most of the confirmed cases only had mild symptoms. It would thus be best to look out for other less common symptoms like a sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that were reported by only 2% of the patients in the US.

  • Is pneumonia contagious?

The New York Times has reported that pneumonia too is becoming increasingly common among COVID-19 patients, even in those whose cases aren't severe. You might want to get this factor checked with a healthcare specialist firsthand to reduce any chance of infection. This makes it just as dangerous for those sitting nearby and caring for you.

There is some respite though. Although it is significantly more severe than the common cold, the severity of the coronavirus varies from one person to another, and so does the effect on one’s life processes. It is a dangerous and life-threatening disease but people are still recovering from it by strengthening their immunity.

Flu vs Coronavirus Symptoms

It is not easy to discern the difference between flu and COVID-19 except for the following observations:

1. Flu symptoms stay until four days while COVID-19 symptoms can stay for 14 days.

2. The median incubation period for COVID-19 is 5.1 days, it is nearly zero for flu.

3. Flu doesn’t come with breathlessness or loss of sense of smell, COVID-19 does.

4. There is little to no muscular pain in the flu, the situation is worse in COVID-19.

5. Flu can be treated with simple antiviral medicines, COVID-19 needs a specialized vaccine.

You can also note that the incubation period for a cold is three days. Colds don't lead to any serious health issues such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. This is again very different from the symptoms of flu.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in both children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that children typically suffer from fever and mild, cold-like symptoms. The latter may include a runny nose and a cough.

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The Symptoms of Flu and Common Cold (or Coronavirus) May Be Too Close to Call

The symptoms of flu and common cold (or coronavirus) may be too close to call

The symptoms of flu and cold are also very similar, and they may trigger a panic in the common public. While it may be said that young children are somewhat immune to flu, the disease of cold and cough can surely cause them some issues. If these seasonal diseases are left untreated, they can cause fever and other complications too.

Adults (men and women) are prone to catching flu infections. Here are some of the most common symptoms of flu that also relate to those of common cold and cough:

1. Fever 

2. Having chills

3. Cold and cough

4. Weakness

5. Tiredness

6. Bad taste in the mouth

7. Difficulty in breathing

8. Pain in the head and other parts of the body

9. Sore throat

10. Tonsillitis 

11. Running or stuffy nose

12. Nausea 

13. Stomach disorders

One may start experiencing the symptoms of flu after one to four days of contracting the virus. Some patients also report symptoms like a loss of smell too, and this can cause a panic because this symptom is a defining feature of COVID-19.

Treatment of flu

Flu is caused by the influenza virus, they usually belong to Type A, B, and C. Type A and B carry seasonal disease illness while Type C only causes milder issues in breathing.

The good thing is that flu is usually as easy to cure as is the common cold. One only needs to take proper bed rest and drink enough water every day to get rid of the illness. It is just as important not to eat anything salty, sour, or cold. One can get well in five to ten days of contracting the infection. However, if the situation persists or worsens, one should consult a doctor promptly.

A qualified healthcare expert would prescribe some antiviral medicines like oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), peramivir (Rapivap), and baloxavir (Xofluza). These medicines usually start working after 48 hours of administration. Doctors believe that flu usually doesn’t last more than five days, though all the symptoms like coughing and weakness may take more than a week to go away.

The Latest Update on Corona Virus (COVID-19) Vaccine

The latest update on Corona Virus (COVID-19) vaccine

We might still have no clinical cure for the coronavirus- or even for the common cold or flu. However, the virus has now become weaker and is thought to be not exactly life-threatening in most conditions. Scientists across the world are looking forward to the day when the virus would be eradicated forever.

If you develop a fever and other symptoms related to the coronavirus, it's wise to call your doctor or emergency medical helpline to determine the next steps. The coronavirus or COVID-19 and the common cold have nearly identical prevention methods.

How long should you wash your hands?

It is important to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. We also recommend you not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands besides avoiding close contact with the sick. You should also stay home when you are sick and you should take out time to disinfect all nearby surfaces to resist infection.

It is important to follow WHO’s guidelines for COVID-19

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, some data in this article may be subjected to change. We would also encourage you to stay informed of the latest updates offered by your local government and healthcare agencies. Following the WHO guidelines is just as important:

1. Maintain social distancing

2. Wear masks

3. Clean hands with sanitizers and soaps

4. Cover your mouth while sneezing

5. Stay away from public gatherings

6. Keep good hygiene

7. Seek medical help if you feel any symptoms of COVID-19

8. Take steam 

9. Avoid close contact

10. Avoid touching open surfaces

11. Isolate yourself if you fall sick

The key difference between flu and COVID-19 is that the latter causes shortness of breath. It is a common sign of COVID-19 that occurs before the development of pneumonia. Generally, the flu and cold do not cause any shortness of breath unless they have progressed to pneumonia. Consult a doctor immediately and get yourself diagnosed for any illness, or to increase your immunity.

Maintain social distancing. Stay inside. Stay safe!