The coming winter months may be a confusing time for those who get sick, with the common cold and flu cases popping up just as coronavirus infections begin to rise again in New Jersey.
How can you tell what respiratory infection you have and when should you get tested? We consulted three New Jersey health and wellness experts.
Dr. Lawrence Kleinman, Head of Population Health, Quality and Performance Science (PopQuIS) at Rutgers University, says there is a lot of overlap in symptoms and it can be difficult to differentiate them from each other. towels.
Coronavirus and flu have many similarities, he said, and can be most difficult to diagnose without testing.
They both share symptoms of cough, fever, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue. However, symptoms unique to coronavirus include diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing, he said.
Colds often lead to runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat, but no fever. Symptoms are usually milder than flu and coronaviruses and a shorter lifespan, says Kleinman.
Dr. Anat Feingold, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rowan University̵7;s Cooper School of Medicine and Head of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cooper University Health Care, said young children may have symptoms. The flu is more severe than the coronavirus.
“They can have a higher fever. They may get sicker with more chills and pain. If you compare the flu to COVID-19, the kids with the flu generally get sicker, ”Feingold said.
But because symptoms overlap so much, testing is the only way to find out what causes your illness.
Dr. Sandra Adams, professor of biology at Montclair University, advises people to be cautious and get tested if they feel sick.
She says the fear of limited laboratory supplies has subsided since the pandemic began, so that doesn’t affect a person’s decision to see a doctor. With more people inside during the colder months, the number of cases can spike and screening will become more important, she said.
“The average person will not be able to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19,” Adams said. “When you find a combination of fever, cough, fatigue, you won’t be able to tell if it’s the flu or a COVID. I mean, do a test. “
Using a nose swab is important for keeping others safe, not just yourself.
Kleinman says confirming you have a coronavirus – even if your symptoms are mild – will help officials track the exposure. And if a family member is at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19, such as people with diabetes or asthma, then it may also help if you or your child is infected. Feingold said.
The kids should always be kept at home if they get sick, she said.
“The question is, are you going to do something different if (your baby is) positive?” She said. “The reason to know the flu is that there is an antiviral treatment option to shorten the flu. If the COVID Test is positive, there is nothing to do but treat the patient symptomatically.
“If they have a fever and it’s a significant illness and there are people at risk for it in the home, then that can make a difference (which needs to be checked),” Feingold said.
Kleinman says a person can have both coronavirus and flu, or other illnesses. In California, officials last week reported the first case of a person testing positive for influenza and COVID-19.
Therefore, Kleinman said doctors may want to test for coronavirus, flu, and strep throat if the patient has symptoms correlated with all three.
“Our instinct as a doctor is that you look for the cause and once you have a cause, most of the time, symptoms have only one cause so you can stop … With coronavirus, it adds an extra layer of complexity, ”he said.
Feinberg says that getting vaccinated is important this year for a number of reasons.
The vaccine includes four different inactivated flu types, Feingold said. Vaccinated strains are the most common strains that have been circulating in countries in the Southern Hemisphere where winter has passed, and it allows your body to pre-form antibodies against these strains. that strain.
Because vaccines reduce the risk of getting the flu, it helps answer the question of whether someone has the flu or COVID-19, she said. It will also cut hospital admissions for the flu and help prevent medical centers from being overloaded, she said.
“Each year, hospital beds are always packed during the flu season for people at high risk or latent illness,” she said. “We want to have fewer flu patients in hospitals that we can prevent, so we have medical services available to people with COVID. There are many reasons to get the flu shot.
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Avalon Zoppo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AvalonZoppo.