What is the difference between COVID, flu and RSV? Symptoms and treatment
With very similar symptoms, covid-19, the flu, and RSV can be hard to tell apart. Here are the symptoms and what to do if you think you are infected.
With fewer masks to stop the spread of seasonal viruses, more people are getting sick this winter, and with overlapping symptoms making a diagnosis at home can be tricky.
To confirm any illness, we advise you to speak with a medical professional because this guide will only cover the symptoms to watch out for and available tests to confirm a diagnosis at home.
Covid-19 cases are increasing in the US, but the availability of at-home tests, of which the results may not be reported to local health officials, makes official counts difficult. Bi-variant covid-10 vaccines created to target strains that have emerged in the year following the release of the original versions remain the best way to protect yourself and those around you from severe infection.
The same goes for the flu, which for some risk groups, including children and the elderly, can be more dangerous than covid-19.
The third disease circulating is Respiratory syncytial virus, otherwise known as RSV. Parents and guardians with young children should be aware of this virus because around two percent of children under six months who become infected require hospitalization.
Symptoms for Covid-19, the Flu, and RSV: Which are the same?
|Decrease in appetite||x|
|Fever and/or chills||x||x||x|
|Wheezing - Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing||x||x|
|Muscle or body aches||x||x|
|New loss of taste or smell||x|
|Nausea or vomiting||x|
Critically in infants, the symptoms differ slightly and could present as decreased activity, irritability, and difficulty breathing. If a child is having problems breathing or keeping fluids down, or if their case becomes more severe, the CDC advises that parents contact a healthcare professional. There are no treatments, like antibiotics for RSV. Still, some infants and children are hospitalized and given fluids through an IV and other medications that can help decrease the severity of the symptoms.
What to do if you think you have RSV
If you or someone close to you has symptoms and are in a high-risk group, talking to a medical professional is advised. Most people will be able to recover by resting, drinking fluids, and taking over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms. However, if symptoms worsen, hospitalization may be necessary. The CDC says that parents should check with their pediatrician before giving their children medications and that aspirin should not be given to them.
What to do if you think you have covid-19
The first step if you or someone close to you is showing symptoms is to take an at-home rapid test or find a free testing site in your area. If the test is positive, you can report it to your doctor. If you are at a higher risk for severe infection, they may prescribe you an anti-viral medication that helps to prevent hospitalization and death. Taking this medication as early as you can help the chance of it working, so if you feel symptoms coming on, it is always a good idea to take a test.
What to do if you think you have the flu
Unlike covid-19, there are no over-the-counter flu tests that can be taken at home. Like covid-19, if you are at high risk for severe infection, make sure to call your doctor as they may be able to prescribe an anti-viral to “lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days.”