The changing season across the world has led to the usual spate of coughs, colds and fevers, which most of us take for granted. But today, even a sneeze is enough to rattle someone near you.
This is not surprising, given that the symptoms of the common cold, the more debilitating influenza, and COVID-19 now rampaging across the world are almost the same. All of them are caused by viruses. How can one tell the difference?
The answer is not easy, but let’s take a quick look at each of the three diseases to help us understand the signs that you might need medical help instead of over the counter medicines for a cold.
The common cold: We have become so used to this that we tend to forget there is no cure for the common cold, which is also caused by a strain of Coronavirus. Most of the symptoms – runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, mild cough, chest congestion, fatigue, aches and pains -- are actually not caused by the virus, but by our body’s immune system trying get rid of it. Most over-the-counter medications treat the symptoms, and provide little relief. A typical cold will last between 7 to 10 days. While you might miserable for that period, the symptoms are far milder compared to influenza.
Influenza: Seasonal influenza or the flu is a common respiratory infection caused by a virus that affects your nose, throat, and lungs and can last from 5 to 7 days. Apart from the fever and/or chills, and the other symptoms of a common cold, you could also have a sore throat, while children also get diarrhea sometimes. However, unlike the common cold or COVID-19, there is a flu vaccine, which usually prevents the flu or ensures that you get milder symptoms if you still get it. Most people don’t need medical treatment. All you need is rest, plenty of fluids, and some over the counter meds for fever.
Coronavirus or COVID-19: COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. Four other extremely common strains usually only cause mild symptoms like the common cold. COVID-19, however, can cause severe illness, particularly among certain vulnerable groups, including the elderly, or those with pre-existing health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease, other cardio-vascular diseases or diabetes. Symptoms include fever and/or chills, usually dry cough, shortness of breath, and some or all of the other symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The only symptom which is different for COVID-19 is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. So if you have these symptoms, and if you have or had close contact with a COVID-19 patient or travelled to an area where COVID-19 is active, you might want to consider getting medical attention immediately. There’s no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 so far.
Disclaimer: This is information gathered from various sources, and not meant to be medical advice. In case of any serious health issues, please consult your doctor or healthcare professional.