COVID, RSV or Flu? Differentiating
Three respiratory illnesses, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the flu, continue to infect hundreds of thousands of Americans every day. This can make it hard to know what’s wrong when you start coughing.
All three viruses cause sickness with symptoms that are similar. A chart made by Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. compares the most common differences at a glance.
When will the flu and RSV be most common?
Even though all three viruses cause cough and fever, there are other ways they are different. The hospital’s symptom chart says that sneezing is common with RSV, happens sometimes with COVID-19, and is rare with the flu. On the other hand, headaches and body aches are not common with RSV, but they can happen with COVID-19 and are common with the flu.
Children’s National says that another thing to pay attention to is the “onset of symptoms.” COVID-19 and RSV both start slowly and then get worse, but the flu usually hits hard and fast.
The symptoms of RSV usually go away in about a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of the flu last longer, about one to two weeks, and can last even longer with COVID-19.
The symptoms associated with COVID-19, the flu, and RSV are compared head-to-head in a graphic that was developed by Children’s National Hospital. (Photo from the Children’s National Medical Center)
In each of these three scenarios, the intensity of the symptoms varies depending on the individual.
Another significant distinction is that while there is a vaccine for influenza and COVID-19, there is not yet one for RSV, although scientists are hard at work developing one.
In the United States, there are more cases of respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV). RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms but can be very bad for babies and older people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which keeps track of the virus every week, says that from October 15 to October 22, there were a total of 7,334 positive RSV results. At the middle of August, that number was 1,241, and since then, the number of positive cases has kept going up.
How do you know what’s wrong?
Most of the time, they cause a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, a fever, and a loss of appetite. Symptoms can show up in four to six days and last for seven to ten days.
If a baby seems to be having trouble breathing, such as by wheezing, flaring their nose, or belly breathing, this could be a sign of RSV, which could be more serious because their immune system is still developing. When someone is belly breathing, you can see their ribs moving in and out. Another sign is when they feed less, which means they are getting less milk or food than before.
Why are there so many people falling ill at the moment?
Even while a careful assessment of your symptoms is a fantastic place to begin, medical professionals strongly advise being tested so that you may better plan your next steps.
According to Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “We have antivirals that work for both the flu and for COVID, but they only do so if they are administered early after the first signs of symptoms.” “Therefore, it’s helpful to be aware of that, particularly if you belong to a high-risk category…. These are essential resources, and we can’t afford to stop making use of them.