COVID VS. THE COLD VS. THE FLU
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
SCM sends our best wishes to each of you and hopes that everyone has a happier, healthier New Year!
While we hope to have a healthier 2022, we are facing an outbreak of omicron, the latest in the variants of COVID-19. We expected that this virus, like all viruses, would grow, change, and mutate. Currently, experts believe that, while omicron is much more contagious than the original virus, it is not quite as deadly. We thought it would be beneficial for us to look briefly at a comparison of the omicron variant of COVID-19, the common cold, and influenza (the flu).
Common Symptoms: a runny nose, congestion, cough, and fatigue. Some patients that tested positive for omicron did not report loss of taste or smell, unlike other COVID-19 variants.
Omicron is sometimes confused with the common cold, but it is caused by SARS-CoV-2, and is not related to a cold. According to Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease specialist with the University of California, San Francisco, “(SARS-CoV-2) and all of its variants, including omicron, are genetically distinct from the viruses that cause the common cold. Although there is growing evidence that the omicron variant may be associated with milder illness than other SARS-CoV-2 variants such as delta, both deaths and rising number of hospitalizations due to omicron have been reported.”
Another issue with the omicron variant is that people who have been fully vaccinated with booster shots are experiencing breakthroughs, meaning they are getting sick. Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you suspect you have omicron symptoms, get tested. Quarantine yourself until you get the test results. If you must be around other people, wear a double-ply mask. Have others stay physically distanced by at least six feet.
If you are positive, follow COVID-19 protocols. Whether you are negative or positive, treat your symptoms, and do not go out in public, go to work, or potentially expose others.
To prevent getting the omicron variant, wear a well-fitting mask in public, stay six feet apart from others when possible, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, and get vaccinated.
THE COMMON COLD:
Common Symptoms: Sneezing, a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing. You might also have some upper respiratory congestion.
The common cold is a virus, most often caused by the coronavirus (sound familiar?) the rhinovirus, or RSV and parainfluenza. It is not caused by going out in cold weather or by anything you eat. The viruses attributed to the common cold are highly contagious. There is no vaccination to prevent the common cold.
Because the symptoms are like omicron, consult your health care provider if you are symptomatic, they may want you to take a test for COVID-19. Treat the symptoms. Go to bed; get plenty of rest. Drink warm fluids. Stay away from others to prevent infecting them. Cover your mouth while sneezing and/or coughing. Do not go to work; stay out of public places as much as possible. You can take over the counter medication to relieve the symptoms. You should be better in about seven days.
INFLUENZA (THE FLU):
Common Symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). A major difference between a cold and the flu is that while cold symptoms come on gradually, the flu will hit you all at once, and come on abruptly.
Again, some of the flu symptoms are similar to omicron. You may want to contact your healthcare provider as to whether a COVID-19 test is recommended. The flu is caused by influenza viruses, so is easily distinguished from COVID-19.
The good news is that there are vaccines for the flu. It is highly recommended to get vaccinated in early fall. Like most viruses, the particulates that carry any virus are more easily carried in the cooler weather, and the season for the flu stretches from fall through early spring.
If you have the flu, stay home, and stay in bed. Drink plenty of fluids and consider the use of an over-the-counter flu medication to reduce symptoms. Limit interaction with others, so stay home; do not go to work. Wash your hands often and disinfect surfaces you might have touched.
For more information and a good comparison of all three viral infections, please follow this link to the CDC webpage on the Cold, Flu, and COVID-19.