A “Tripledemic” causes many to remain ill for weeks and months. Here’s how to tell if you have a cold, flu, COVID, RSV, or strep.

Is it a cold, flu, RSV, strep or COVID? Thanks to years of shelter, the public – and especially children – are much more susceptible to serious illness if they catch anything. And the chances of contracting something are quite high right now, experts warn, with so many viruses circulating. “You can get really sick, maybe even more than you normally would, because your immune system hasn’t been challenged as much lately,” says Dr. Priya Soni, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s in Los Angeles. . “It’s important for parents to remember that we often treat these viruses the same way — with home care that includes fluids, rest, and over-the-counter pain or fever reducers, if needed,” says Andi Shane, MD, MPH, MSc, System Medical Director, Infectious Diseases at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta. “As a parent, it’s important to trust your instincts: call your child’s doctor if you’re concerned and know the symptoms that warrant medical attention,” adds Dr. Shane. Because so many symptoms of each virus overlap, it can be difficult to confirm what someone might have without a test, but there are specific symptoms to look out for, which are more common with some viruses than others. Here are the symptoms of each virus to watch out for. Read on – and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss it Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.



Sick man in gray sweater, yellow hat and glasses, blowing nose and sneezing into tissue

Sick man in gray sweater, yellow hat and glasses, blowing nose and sneezing into tissue

The common cold is generally milder than the other viruses and symptoms come on slowly over two or three days, unlike the flu which feels much more immediate. Fever rarely accompanies a cold, so if you have a fever, it’s more likely to be the flu. COVID and RSV are also unlikely to be accompanied by a high fever. “Especially with the newer variants and people who have been exposed through immunization or if they’ve had an infection before, we’re seeing more patients now have only mild symptoms, and they’re only having a low-grade fever, around 99 or 100,” says Dr. Michael Changan infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston. According to Penn medicine, cold symptoms are usually felt about 2 to 3 days after coming into contact with the virus, although up to a week is not uncommon. Symptoms are usually felt in the nose and include nasal congestion, scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing. Coughing, sore throat and loss of appetite are also symptoms of a cold.



woman dealing with flu virus at home, concept of how to keep your body healthy during flu season

woman dealing with flu virus at home, concept of how to keep your body healthy during flu season

Getting the flu usually feels more immediate than a cold, COVID, or RSV — according to Dr. Chang, people with the flu feel like they’ve been hit by a truck. “Most people who have the flu (influenza) have a mild illness and don’t need to see a doctor,” says Pritish K. Tosh, MD. Common flu signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever above 100 F (38 C), although not everyone with the flu has a fever

  • A cough or sore throat

  • A runny or stuffy nose

  • Headache

  • muscle strain

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (most common in children)

“With some rest and self-care measures at home, the average healthy person can expect to get better within a week, although a dry cough can last several weeks. If you or someone you care for is at high risk for flu-related complications and you if you suspect the flu, call the doctor. For those at high risk for flu-related complications or who have severe flu, there is a higher chance that the flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, and, rarely, hospitalization or death. also exacerbate chronic health conditions such as asthma and congestive heart failure.”



Curly woman feeling bad and suffering from strong cough while having flu

Curly woman feeling bad and suffering from strong cough while having flu

According to dr. Chang, people with RSV are less likely to feel the whole-body aches and pains commonly associated with the flu and COVID-19. Coughing and high-pitched wheezing (especially in children) is a common symptom of RSV. “Of the three viruses, RSV tends to have the most mucus in your nose and throat and the most congestion,” says Dr. Chang. As with any virus, do not hesitate to consult a doctor if necessary. “What we’re seeing are record levels of RSV in young children. Usually we see a peak in December or January, but it’s earlier this year,” says Scott Roberts, MD, an infectious disease specialist Yale Medicine. “At the moment the problem is really just the number of sick children. Children can get quite sick from it, but we know how to help them. Children are hospitalized for supplemental oxygen or other supportive measures such as positive pressure to to help.” with breathing and keep the lungs open.” “And if you or your child is sick, stay away from others until you are better and fever-free,” says Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease physician. “And if you have a baby, especially a newborn, be very careful about who comes to visit in the first few months of their life. You just want people who wash their hands and have no symptoms near the being a baby.”



Young woman touching sore neck, sore throat for flu, cold and infection.

Young woman touching sore neck, sore throat for flu, cold and infection.

Strep A cases are on the rise across Europe and parts of the US, raising serious concerns. “Group A streptococcus has always been a very important pathogen that can cause very serious illness,” says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Island, New York. “It is of great concern that we are seeing an increase in severe cases in many locations.” Strep is a collection of bacteria that, depending on the species, can cause a variety of diseases. According to the CDC, signs of strep A include a sudden sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white spots or pus streaks, small, red spots on the roof of the mouth (petechiae on the soft or hard palate), and swollen lymph nodes in front of the neck. If there is a rash, it is known as scarlet fever. Headache, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are also symptoms of strep A, especially in children. “Group A strep infection is presented in a few different ways, including severe pneumonia, sepsis, where the bacteria are in the bloodstream, toxic shock, severe skin infections and infections, and other parts of the body where it normally shouldn’t be like the bones and joints,” said Dr. Sam Dominguez with Colorado Children’s Hospital. “If someone is having trouble breathing. If they’re more sleepy or harder to wake up, if they’re not eating or drinking like they used to, if they’re not walking. Those are all warning signs that they need to be taken.” probably to the emergency room.”



senior man with seasonal winter sickness fever cold problems

senior man with seasonal winter sickness fever cold problems

Loss of taste and smell is more commonly associated with COVID than with the flu, the common cold, or RSV. According to the CDC, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 now cause 70% of cases in the US. The most common symptoms reported are sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, dry cough, and headache, all of which overlap with the common cold and flu. At the end of the day, the only way to know for sure is to get tested. “I don’t think anyone would ever say, ‘Hey, listen, I think you have a virus based on your symptoms,’ and dare to say what virus that is,” says Dr. Frank Espera pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. “For both flu and COVID, we have antivirals that work if taken early after signs of symptoms,” says Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “So especially if you’re in a high-risk group, it’s good to know that. … Those are important tools that we really need to keep using.”


How to stay safe there

Nurse in face mask sitting at home with elderly woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

Nurse in face mask sitting at home with elderly woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

Follow public health basics and help end this pandemic wherever you live: get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible; if you live in an area with low vaccination coverage, carry an N95 face maskdo not travel, social distancing, avoid large crowds, do not enter with people you are not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, do not visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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