COVID? Flu? Cold? How can you tell the difference?

Good Question: Is it possible to have several of them at once?
COVID? Flu? Cold? How can you tell the difference?
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 4:38 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -Is it COVID? A cold? Or the flu?

It’s that time of year when all three are spreading and sometimes the symptoms can overlap.

So how do you know the difference? And is it possible to have several of them at once?

Those are all good questions.

So we took those questions to Dr. Charles Bregier from Novant Health.

Dr. Charles Bregier: “The common cold, you know, is caused mostly by rhinoviruses, but also some other kinds of viruses you know. Common cold typically is a runny nose, congestion, maybe a little bit of headache, some sneezing, a little bit of a sore throat or scratchy throat, sometimes a bit of a fever - fairly mild symptoms.”

OYST Jamie Boll: So then transition into flu. How does that look different?

Dr. Bregier: “So, flu is caused by a variety of different influenza viruses, and it tends to be a somewhat of a more severe disease, especially in young people and in old people. So more typically people have more cough, more headache, more fever, more muscle aches and just feeling bad. It tends to last a little bit longer. Common cold typically lasts a couple of days up to a week. Flu can last a little bit longer than that.”

Boll: Then how might that differ from COVID?

Dr. Bregier: “So that’s where it gets tricky. Yeah, because COVID can be manifested with any of the symptoms I just mentioned of a common cold or any of the symptoms of the flu I just mentioned. So, one thing that tends to be a little bit more unique with COVID is it is often associated with the cough.”

“Cough is you know, probably the primary symptom people can expect to have, and it tends to be kind of a dry cough, which means you’re just kind of hacking and really not really bringing up a whole lot of phlegm.”

“Also, it’s perhaps a little bit more commonly associated with loss of smell and taste, although a cold can also be associated with loss of smell and taste because of the nasal congestion and stuffiness that you have. So, there is a lot of overlap between them, and you know, I think at this day and age you know right now when we’re in this. You know horrific omicron surge with so many you know millions of people each week testing positive. Now, in this country, we want to be careful to not attribute symptoms. But to just a minor cold or something like that, if you may in fact have COVID because COVID is very contagious.”

Boll: Sure, we’ve been seeing some headlines lately and it kind of gets people’s attention. Can you get more than one of these at a time, both flu and COVID or even a common cold?

Dr. Bregier:You can. You can get multiple different viruses at the same time. It is unlucky, but if you think about it, you know often when you have one virus, one viral infection of some sort, it can kind of suppress your immune system a little bit which could put you at greater risk for developing another type of a viral infection. So yeah, it’s not uncommon to see multiple viral infections, either at the same time or back to back to back.”

Boll: Does that make an outcome potentially worse if you get both at the same time?

Dr. Bregier: “So yes, certainly if you have flu and COVID at the same time, it puts you at higher risk for ending up in the hospital and a more severe outcome. That’s why you know we’ve been messaging all along. Please go ahead and get your flu shot, along with your COVID vaccines and do the best you can to try to prevent getting either one of them.”

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