Last Updated on May 13, 2020 by Sagar Aryal
The symptoms of the cold that we frequently have, the flu, and COVID-19 have got quite a number of overlaps. Therefore symptoms alone cannot confirm whether a person is having a novel coronavirus or nCoV infection. There has to be an array of symptoms that need to get weaved together to have a confirmed case of coronavirus. And this can only be done by health care specialists.
Image created using biorender.com
While you may feel miserable when you have a cold, the symptoms are generally mild compared to more aggressive viruses like the flu. The symptoms when a person has cold are
- runny or stuffy nose (rare for corona, sometimes in flu)
- mild cough
- watery eyes
- sore throat
- aches and pains
Most over-the-counter medications have, at best, moderate effects on cold symptoms. A typical cold will last on an average of 7 to 10 days.
The majority of the symptoms are not caused by the infection itself, but rather our body’s immune system trying to get rid of it. Therefore we need to give some time to our body to fight off the infection and remain patient unless the symptoms are moving to the next level and gradually becoming severe.
The seasonal flu or influenza is still out there and generally comes on fast and rapidly. It is a common respiratory infection caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat, and lungs and can last from 5-7 days. The symptoms are
- Fever with sudden chills
- Dry cough
- aches and pains
- it may or not have a runny nose and sore throat
- there can be diarrhea in case of children
Unlike colds and coronavirus, vaccination is a good way to prevent the flu. If you have received a flu shot and still get the flu, your symptoms are generally milder than if you hadn’t received the vaccination. Most people with the flu get well without medical treatment.
The novel coronavirus which is causing the COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that is spreading quickly worldwide. The recent estimates are more than 200,000 confirmed cases all over the world. Four other strains of coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness like the common cold. This information applies to the common human coronaviruses and should not be confused with the COVID-19 disease.
The COVID-19 can cause severe illness in certain groups, for example, older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions – like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. The symptoms include
- Dry cough
- fever with chills
- shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
- runny nose, sore throat and other upper respiratory symptoms are very uncommon in COVID-1
Now comparing the 3, it turns out to be something like this
This chart is published by WHO in collaboration with CDC i.e. center for disease control and prevention
So in the case of both flu and COVID-19, dry cough is common along with fever. And if someone is having only a runny nose and is sneezing and none of the other symptoms, it is probably the cold. The symptom that stands out for COVID-19, in this case, is shortness of breath i.e. breathing difficulty.
Adding to that severe lung damage can cause something called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS which occurs when the lung inflammation is so severe that fluid builds around and in the lungs. The severe infection can cause septic shock which happens when the body’s organs are starved for oxygen.
How are we supposed to act?
The severity of the COVID-19 symptoms ranges from mild to severe. If you have recent close contact with a COVID-19 patient or you have traveled recently to an area where the disease in active, it may be more likely that your symptoms are due to COVID-19. If you suspect the disease, call the helpline number in your respective country and seek help from clinicians who can review your symptoms and give specific care recommendations. If your symptoms are mild, you will likely be directed to stay home to protect others from illness. But if you are referred to a medical facility, remember to call ahead and let them know your symptoms before you go in.
Again, the only way to stop the spread is to quarantine yourself in your home, avoiding social gathering and preventing travel to other states or countries until the situation is under control.
References and Sources
- 7% – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/general-information.html
- 7% – https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2020/03/whats-the-difference-between-a-cold-the-flu-and-coronavirus/
- 4% – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVDUL0SZMBM
- 4% – https://intermountainhealthcare.org/covid19-coronavirus/i-have-health-issues/
- 4% – http://www.cchn.net/
- 3% – https://speakinoutweeklynews.net/2020/03/25/is-it-coronavirus-the-flu-a-cold-or-allergies-heres-how-to-tell/
- 1% – https://www.healthline.com/health/coronavirus-covid-19
- 1% – https://www.cleveland.com/coronavirus/2020/03/coronavirus-and-the-lungs-does-covid-19-cause-more-severe-pneumonia-or-ards-than-other-viruses.html
- 1% – https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidmack/social-distancing-coronavirus
- <1% – https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm
- <1% – https://www.cdc.gov/
- <1% – https://www.bphc.org/whatwedo/infectious-diseases/Infectious-Diseases-A-to-Z/Documents/FAQ%20for%20COVID19.pdf