RSV, flu and COVID-19: how to tell the difference?  The doctor explains

RSV, flu and COVID-19: how to tell the difference? The doctor explains

SAN FRANCISCO– Doctors are seeing several different viruses circulating in the community at increased rates.

The triple threat — or “tripledemic” — of influenza (flu), COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have many of the same symptoms in common, and it’s hard to tell which one you’ve caught.

We spoke to Dr. David Hoffman, a pediatric hospitalist at MarinHealth Medical Center, to share his thoughts on how to tell them apart and when you should and shouldn’t be concerned.

“While it’s impossible to know for sure which of these viruses you have without testing, there are distinctive symptoms for each virus,” Dr. Hoffman said.

Here are some symptoms of each and a guide to what to do if you or a family member becomes ill.



Influenza usually comes on very suddenly with an incubation period of one to four days, unlike COVID-19, which tends to have a gradual onset of symptoms. Generally, people feel more miserable with the flu than with other types of virus, and this is often accompanied by a sore throat, nausea, body aches, vomiting, or even diarrhea. A hallmark of the flu can be a very high fever – as high as 103 or 104 Fahrenheit. Fever is just the body’s way of fighting infection and is not dangerous on its own.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said: “Flu hospitalizations continue to be the highest we’ve seen at this time of year in a decade. If you get sick, report to your provider. early care. There are good antivirals to treat both flu and COVID-19.”

The CDC is again suggesting that people voluntarily wear masks indoors to reduce their risk of getting sick in the coming weeks.

It’s not too late to get both vaccines – experts say you start being protected within a week with a booster.

Distinctive feature

The most distinctive sign of the flu can be a very high fever between 103 and 104.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat



“Coronavirus has become familiar to most of us, and the signs are similar to the flu and RSV. To complicate matters further, some people become very ill, while others have very mild symptoms. , and others have no symptoms. While most people develop symptoms within the first week after exposure, symptoms can occur two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.”

Distinctive feature

“Unlike other viruses, COVID-19 can affect other areas of the body outside of the lungs and in some cases have long-term effects,” says Dr. Hoffman.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Cough
  • Brief fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle or body pain
  • Headache



RSV is a virus that many adults would have already caught and it usually only causes cold symptoms in adults. “If you think back to that cold you had that just wouldn’t go away, you kept having congestion and maybe a cough that lasted longer than usual, chances are that it’s RSV. And again, flu symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, runny or stuffy nose, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sore throat,” Dr. Hoffman said.

RSV causes a runny nose, congestion, and cough in most people. According to Dr. Hoffman, RSV is more likely to cause serious illness in very young children, especially those born prematurely or who have lung or heart disease. The most distinctive symptom that some children infected with RSV will exhibit is wheezing. Wheezing is a high-pitched sound with each exhalation.

“For most people, and even most children, RSV does not cause dangerous illness. But it does in a subset of children. Even children with serious illness requiring hospitalization will usually do just fine low oxygen maybe they just need to be watched closely RSV is most likely to cause significant disease or, you know, more serious illness in very young children and very old adults,” Dr. Hoffman said.

Distinctive symptom

The most distinctive symptom that some children infected with RSV will exhibit is wheezing, a high-pitched sound, with each exhalation.

RSV symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • To cough
  • To sneeze
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

When to consult a doctor

Dr. Hoffman recommends seeking immediate medical attention if these symptoms appear:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Refuse to eat and drink

When should I keep my child at home?

If your child has symptoms of RSV, the flu, or COVID-19, health experts advise you to keep your child home to avoid spreading the virus to others. It doesn’t matter which of the viruses is the culprit. Precautions should be taken to avoid the spread.

Prevention: how to prevent your child from getting sick

Prevention is the best medicine, especially with these viruses. These suggestions are good ideas for avoiding seasonal viruses:

  • Get your child vaccinated against influenza, COVID-19, pneumococcus and whooping cough.
  • Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as desks, tables, and doorknobs, if someone in your household is sick.
  • If your child is sick, ask him to stay home to avoid spreading the disease.

“Everyone talks about RSV, but we also see other viruses in the community, like metapneumovirus, which can cause bronchitis or a significant respiratory infection, or viral pneumonia. There are thousands of viruses that we don’t have tests, so we don’t have ‘I don’t know exactly what virus it is, but we’re definitely seeing many different respiratory infections more,’ Dr Hoffman said.

He says the most important message he wants to convey to parents is that you can hurt yourself a lot more by being too worried.

“By being anxious and increasing stress, you therefore make yourself more vulnerable to all types of illnesses, chronic illnesses and infections,” says Dr. Hoffman.

“Having said that, I think everyone should do everything they can to protect themselves from all respiratory illnesses and other vaccine-preventable diseases. unborn child and protect themselves by preventing themselves from contracting whooping cough,” he says.

Likewise, he urged children to get vaccinated against pneumococcus (whooping cough).

“Get your COVID-19 and flu shot for children and adults. The flu shot may make you feel like you have a very mild cold, but it’s much better than falling seriously ill or even die from the flu. So many people choose not to get the flu shot because they don’t like it. But in reality, the benefits far outweigh the very small risks to get a flu shot or the inconvenience of getting a flu shot,” Dr. Hoffman said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to rush to your pediatrician or your primary care provider just to get tested, to try to figure out which of these you have, other than maybe getting some COVID tests. -19 because most people who get RSV, the flu and COVID-19 will be fine. And so it’s really just about dictating whether or not you have to strictly self-isolate and for how long,” he said.

The thing is, these respiratory viruses tend to show up with similar symptoms, such as cough, runny nose, and fever. Fortunately for most children, it doesn’t matter which of these viruses, or the thousands of other viruses that cause respiratory illnesses or colds, your child has. Most children will recover from all of these viruses on their own, without receiving medical treatment and without serious complications. If your child is sick, consider testing for COVID-19 first to find out if and how long you should isolate your child at home.

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All rights reserved.

#RSV #flu #COVID19 #difference #doctor #explains

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *