As the influenza season approaches, some Americans, and parents in particular, are concerned that if they or their children should get sick, it may not be easy to know what illness they have – the flu or Covid-19.
You are right. Most of the symptoms of the two diseases are so similar that without a test – or two or three tests – it is impossible to know for sure. But there are some pointers. (And it is possible to have both infections at the same time; some patients in China were found to have both this year.)
But first: get a flu shot.
It's not yet clear if the United States will have a big flu season this year. Influenza activity in the southern hemisphere, which often predicts activity in the United States, was 99 percent below normal in winter. Epidemiologists believe Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Chileans and other residents of the southern half of the world wore masks, stayed several feet apart, and washed their hands to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. The same precautionary measures prevent the flu from spreading.
With very few flights currently between the southern hemisphere and the United States, the usual four seasonal strains of influenza may not have an opportunity to "re-sow" among Americans. If they do, masks and social distancing should limit their spread.
Even so, experts urge all Americans to get a flu shot. Before it ended abruptly during the lockdown, last year's flu season was on the way to becoming one of the worst in the recent past. The number of deceased children was the same as in the 2017/18 season. This was the worst number since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking deaths during the flu season in 1976.
If you get the flu, experts say you are much less likely to be hospitalized or die.
Due to fears of "twilight", a large number of flu vaccinations were carried out this year, which were distributed to pharmacies and doctors' practices from August, that is, early. Late last month, some doctors reported that it was difficult to order as many as they want, but pharmacy chains say they have steady supplies. To find a flu shot, try Impfstofffinder.org or one of the chain pharmacy websites like CVS.com/immunizations/flu.
Assessing the difference between cold and flu.
There are at least 100 viruses that can cause colds, but only four that cause seasonal flu. Many people who catch cold assume they have the flu, but experts keep saying the same thing to tell the difference: "The flu makes you feel like you've been hit by a truck." That The fever, pain, and headache of a bad case of influenza are generally worse than those of respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, or other cold viruses.
Everyone knows the symptoms of the flu: fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, congested sinuses, coughing and sneezing – and, in babies, ear infections. Some victims, especially children, get diarrhea or vomiting.
In severe cases, the most common complication is pneumonia. The typical signs of flu pneumonia are shortness of breath, especially if you are exerting yourself, and breathing unusually quickly – doctors usually look for this in children – and sometimes chest or back pain.
Identification of Covid-19 based on its flulike and "crazy" symptoms.
Knowing if you have Covid-19 is a lot more complicated because there are so many different – and sometimes pretty crazy – symptoms, many of which mirror those of the flu.
The most common symptoms are high fever, sometimes with chills, dry cough, and tiredness.
The only sign that really differentiates the two infections is that many Covid-19 victims suddenly lose their sense of smell – not because they have a stuffy nose, but because they don't even register strong smells like onions or coffee. Not all virus victims get anosmia, the official name for loss of smell, but one study found that 87 percent did.
Less common symptoms include sore throat, constipation, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and feeling a little out of breath when you make an effort. Some victims have red or itchy eyes, while others get redness or blisters on their fingers or toes – so-called covid toes, which are similar to chilblains.
More dangerous symptoms – which means you should see a doctor right away – include serious difficulty breathing; Chest pain or pressure; blue lips or blue face; Confusion or incoherent answers to simple questions; and collapse or lose consciousness.
In addition to the terrifying nature of the disease, it can cause blood clots that lead to heart, brain, and lung damage. And even some cases that seem mild or asymptomatic show signs that doctors believe the problem is long-lasting heart damage.
Another unusual aspect of Covid is that sometimes people develop pneumonia without realizing how sick they are. Doctors aren't sure why; One theory is that the air sacs in the lungs are damaged in such a way that carbon dioxide does not accumulate, which creates the feeling of desperate searching for air.
Many doctors recommend buying a pulse oximeter, a fingertip device that measures the level of oxygen in the blood. Multiple readings below 92 percent should trigger a call to the doctor. The sooner pneumonia occurs, the better the result.
Understand that Covid-19 symptoms in children are similar to adults.
Children generally get through Covid-19 with few problems; For the youngest age groups, it is considered less dangerous than the flu.
Children have the same set of symptoms as adults, although parents may be more likely to notice this if their children have runny noses, red eyes and the exhausted crankiness that results from just feeling terrible.
Dangerous symptoms include difficulty breathing, bluish lips, confusion or inability to wake up, and severe abdominal pain or an inability to keep fluids out. If there are any signs, it's important to get a child to a doctor or hospital quickly.
In very rare cases, children can develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is believed to be caused by an overactive immune response and can cause shock and organ failure.
But doctors emphasize that it is rare and that parents should realize It is highly unlikely that your sick child will have it.
Expect potential difficulties in testing.
For Covid-19, symptoms can begin two to 14 days after exposure, but most five to seven days afterwards.
However, as with diseases like measles, you can spread the virus two days before your illness starts. So if you think you have been exposed it is very important to warn others and isolate yourself from them as soon as possible, especially if they are elderly or medically vulnerable.
It is an axiom of general medicine that when a disease spreads through an area and a patient has their symptoms, it is usually safe to assume the patient has this and to begin treatment instead of waiting for test results. So don't be surprised if your doctor doesn't recommend a test unless both the flu and coronavirus are heavily circulating in your town at the same time.
And it can be difficult to get tested for the coronavirus, especially with so many testing delays. The type of PCR is more accurate than 15-minute "rapid antigen tests", but it can take hours or even days to return results, depending on whether it needs to be sent to a central laboratory.
A positive test likely means you are infected, but a negative test shouldn't be trusted. Too many things can go wrong. Two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart are a better indication of whether or not you are infection-free.
If your insurance company only pays for one test, you can pay for the second test yourself for your peace of mind.