Home » Strategies for Protection: Distinguishing Symptoms of Cold, Flu, COVID-19, and RSV

Strategies for Protection: Distinguishing Symptoms of Cold, Flu, COVID-19, and RSV

by Pleasant View

As we enter the fall and winter seasons, there is concern for sickness. It can be difficult to tell what illness someone has contracted if they become unwell.

Given the presence of the normal cold, influenza, COVID-19 and RSV, it can be difficult to figure out which one is responsible.

As the cold and flu season approaches, it is important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms associated with each. Knowing them now can help to prepare for the upcoming season.

What are the indicators for distinguishing between a cold, the flu, COVID and RSV?

The Usual Cold

It is a common phenomenon for people to experience the common cold at some point in their life. This well-recognized illness is characterized by symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, and fatigue. The cold is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It can be spread through contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated surfaces. There is no cure for the common cold, but there are ways to alleviate the symptoms. Resting, drinking fluids, and taking over-the-counter medications can help ease the discomfort.

The Mayo Clinic notes that a cold, which is caused by viruses, usually presents with symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, throat pain, coughing, sneezing, nasal blockage, headaches, and a slight body ache along with a slight fever.

It is common for grown ups to become ill with a cold two or three times annually, whereas infants and toddlers have a higher probability of being afflicted more frequently.

The average time for an individual to overcome the effects of a cold usually lasts for around seven days, and medical attention is usually not required unless the symptoms become more severe.

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The CDC states that rhinoviruses are the most common cause of the common cold.

The transmission of these droplets is accomplished through coughing, sneezing, handshaking, and embracing.

In order to ward off a cold, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regularly washing your hands and avoiding contact with people who have an infectious illness.

The Flu

The signs of flu may be akin to those of a regular cold, yet the results could be more significant.

Influenza viruses, as reported by the CDC, can cause sickness ranging from mild to severe and affect the nose, throat, and in certain cases, the lungs, leading to the flu.

In certain situations, the influenza virus can be fatal. Data from the CDC reveals that the virus has caused between 12,000 and 52,000 fatalities annually between the years 2010 and 2020.

Flu indications are typically rapid and can encompass fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, muscle or body pains, headaches, exhaustion, and at times, nausea and diarrhea.

According to the CDC, it is not possible to differentiate between the flu and other illnesses just based on their symptoms. To make an accurate diagnosis, a medical professional must run a rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT).

A person can become infected with the flu by coming into contact with respiratory droplets, such as those produced when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. Furthermore, the flu virus can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s face.

During the initial three to four days of having the flu, individuals are highly contagious.

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A 2018 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases revealed that youngsters are the most probable group to contract the flu; however, the CDC still holds the position that the sickness is prevalent.

The CDC recommends that the best way to prevent flu is to get an annual flu vaccine, practice proper handwashing and stay away from those who are ill.


COVID-19 has been causing disruption and fear around the world for 3 years now. This virus is highly contagious and can cause severe illness in some cases. As we know, it can spread rapidly. Health authorities continue to work hard to understand this virus and identify treatments.

The indicators of COVID-19 are comparable to those of cold and flu such as a fever, shivering, cough, body pains, sore throat, nasal congestion, a runny nose, exhaustion, and a headache.

Symptoms such as sore throat, lack of taste, mental confusion and difficulty breathing are further indicators of the novel coronavirus.

In order to accurately diagnose COVID-19, a test should conducted on those exhibiting the signs of the virus in order to distinguish it from other illnesses.

Accurate PCR testing is a method which can be used to detect COVID-19, with results typically being available within three days.

If any individual experiences difficulty in breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, or drowsiness, as well as having pale, gray, or blue-hued skin, lips, or nail beds, the CDC advises they should seek immediate medical care.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

This virus, commonly referred to as RSV, is a highly contagious pathogen that can cause severe respiratory illnesses.

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Those suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may experience the same usual symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, sneezing, and fever.

The CDC suggests that other symptoms, like wheezing and an appetite reduction, could be signs that distinguish the virus from other medical issues.

Infants are most vulnerable to RSV but their symptoms may manifest differently. These symptoms may include irritability, reduced activity and difficulty breathing.

RSV patients can experience difficulty breathing and possibly have a very severe fever that could necessitate a trip to the emergency room.

The virus is especially hazardous for young people, as it can obstruct their narrow airways, as well as for the elderly, who do not have the necessary immunity to quickly defeat it.

The CDC emphasizes that infants and the elderly are more susceptible to a more serious infection which can progress to bronchiolitis and pneumonia. In extreme cases, infants and seniors who suffer from dehydration or are having trouble breathing may require hospitalization.

The CDC states that the majority of RSV infections can be managed within a week’s time with the use of over-the-counter medications and attention to home care.

Although RSV has some distinctions from other illnesses, the usual procedures for contagion avoidance and protection are still applicable, such as avoiding close proximity to those who show signs of infection and being cautious when touching foreign objects.


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