Is it the flu, Covid or just a cold?

Is it the flu, Covid or just a cold?

Do you have a runny nose and are wondering if you have contracted Covid-19, the flu or a common cold? Dr Gérald Kierzek reveals his best advice for learning to distinguish these three viral infections common in winter.

Between the red nose, the aches and the fatigue, it’s difficult to know which virus you are suffering from. However, small differences should be noted between the terrible flu, the eternal Covid or the small passing cold.

Covid-19 and colds: very similar symptoms

Since 2019, the coronavirus has mutated several times and its symptoms, mainly ENT, have transformed over the months. According to the latest definition from the High Council of Public Health, the signs that should suggest Covid-19 – and its current variant, JN.1 – are as follows:

  • An acute respiratory infection with a fever or feeling feverish;
  • Unexplained asthenia (fatigue);
  • Unexplained muscle pain;
  • Headaches outside of a known migraine pathology;
  • Anosmia (total loss of smell) or hyposmia (partial loss of smell) with or without associated rhinitis;
  • Ageusia (complete loss of taste) or dysgeusia (alteration of taste);
  • Odynophagia (pain when swallowing);
  • Sometimes diarrhea.

People aged 80 or over present slightly different symptoms (deterioration of general condition, repeated falls, appearance or worsening of cognitive disorders, confusional syndrome, diarrhea, decompensation of a previous illness, etc.), in the same way as people aged 80 or over. children (deterioration of general condition, diarrhea, isolated fever, etc.) and patients in emergency situations (heart rhythm disturbances, acute myocardial damage, etc.).

Signs therefore differentiating from a simple cold (runny and blocked nose, sneezing, burning sensation in the nose, more or less pronounced loss of smell and taste, etc.) or the flu.

But for Dr Gérald Kierzek, if the flu is different, the common cold and Covid-19 remain very similar:

A little fever, aches, a runny nose, a scratchy throat… To tell the difference between a cold and Covid-19, you need to take a test“, he assures.

Flu: more violent symptoms

According to the health insurance website, the flu manifests itself with various symptoms, which appear within 48 hours:

  • A high fever (around 39°C) accompanied by chills;
  • Intense fatigue (asthenia), a feeling of despondency with loss of appetite;
  • Diffuse muscle (aches) and joint pain;
  • Headaches (headaches);
  • Then a dry, painful cough.

If Covid and flu symptoms could be confused, “with the exception of ENT symptoms, which are more reminiscent of Covid-19“, Dr Gérald Kierzek would like to point out that “the flu is a step above the other two infections, it is much more brutal and acute“.

Cold, covid-19 and flu: different complications

Beyond the common forms of these infections, colds, Covid-19 and the flu present very different complications.

  • The common cold can sometimes develop into bronchitis;
  • Covid-19 can lead to heart or respiratory failure (pneumonitis), or even decompensation of underlying diseases.
  • As for the flu, a bacterial superinfection or influenza pneumonia can appear. Decompensation of an underlying disease may also occur.

Cold, covid-19 and flu: what treatment(s)?

It’s the same for all three infections“, confides Dr. Gérald Kierzek.

We isolate ourselves, we get warm, we take paracetamol if necessary, vitamins, and above all, we wear a mask so as not to contaminate others. No need to get tested here, however, we continue to follow barrier gestures (hand washing, etc.) and we monitor the evolution of our symptoms“, he recommends. “You can also monitor its saturation using a saturometer.“.

If after 72 hours respiratory symptoms appear, “we consult urgently“, adds the emergency doctor.

The best solution to prevent these infections?

Get vaccinated for the flu and Covid-19“, estimates the expert.

On the other hand, when it comes to colds, you will have to wait until the end of winter to hope to escape the virus…