Time flies, and for some of us, it’s hard to remember the peak of the COVID pandemic in 2021. For others, it was a painful and tragic period and feels like only yesterday. Our experiences, and perhaps even our opinions, about COVID, are about as far-ranging and different as the varying symptoms some encounter and some do not. This year, as the flu and cold season pick up, we are starting to see the emergence of COVID-19 again in our Arizona urgent care clinics. This time the symptoms and severity are wide-ranging. It can be hard to tell if the symptoms you are feeling are a result of COVID, the flu, strep throat, or a mere cold. How is each treated differently these days? Let’s break it down.
Symptoms of COVID
Typically symptoms of COVID appear from one to three days after exposure. Primary symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Diarrhea (more frequent in children with flu, but can occur in any age with COVID-19)
- Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.
The cough may be productive with yellow-green mucus, and the fever may be as high as 104°F. The illness may last seven to 10 days. After initial recognition of symptoms, confirmation of the virus can be obtained by testing nasal swabs or throat swab specimens. Again you can visit any one of our AlphaMeD urgent cares for a COVID test. Test results can be delivered in minutes along with a detailed treatment plan.
What are the distinctions between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
While both influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory diseases, they are caused by different viruses. The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that caused COVID-19 was first identified in 2019. Flu is caused by the influenza virus.
People with COVID-19 infection may experience more severe symptoms than those with influenza and may be contagious for longer periods than people with influenza. However, COVID-19 and the flu can both cause the same symptoms, so it’s not always possible to tell which one you have just by looking for signs and symptoms. This is seeming to be especially true this season. Many patients are coming in expecting to be put on a treatment plan for the flu, when in fact they are positive for COVID. The specific test for both COVID-19 and influenza is administered by a medical professional, enabling you to be diagnosed and treated for the particular virus you have more quickly. Both tests can be administered in any of our urgent care clinics and results can be given within a matter of minutes. Early treatment for both COVID-19 and influenza can substantially lower your risk of getting seriously sick. It’s also not uncommon for a person to have both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time, although testing can detect this, too. People with both COVID-19 and influenza can experience more serious symptoms than those with either virus alone.
More information about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it is being discovered every day. The CDC includes the most up-to-date guidance and information here.
How to tell if you have the flu or cold and how to treat it.
A cold is a viral infection marked by sneezing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. It usually lasts a week and is rarely serious, except for people with weakened immune systems. The symptoms of a cold can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Influenza is a viral infection that can cause mild symptoms but can be serious, even deadly, for people who are very young or very old, or who have underlying health conditions. The symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, headache, joint pain, and feeling tired.
The CDC recommends prompt treatment with influenza antiviral drugs as early as possible for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Antiviral drugs are the main treatment for COVID-19. There are two antiviral drugs approved in the U.S. for the treatment of COVID-19: oseltamivir and zanamivir. Although not routinely used to treat a cold, erythromycin (an antibiotic) may be used to treat a bacterial infection associated with a cold.
Is this year’s flu season going to be affected by COVID-19?
Viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu might simultaneously infect people in their community during the flu season, which typically runs from December to February. This scenario may lead people to become infected with either one or both illnesses. One of the best ways for you to stay on top of your symptoms and get the proper treatment is to come into any one of our urgent care clinics, get tested, and get a proper treatment plan from one of our providers. Hospitals may become overcrowded if a large number of people become severely ill from either virus. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza can help prevent the spread of these viruses, which cause a variety of illnesses.