How to tell if you’ve got coronavirus, flu or just a common cold

Mother checking child's temperature. (PHOTO: Getty Image)
Mother checking child's temperature. (PHOTO: Getty Image)

There are differences – no matter how small.

With the increasing number of coronavirus cases being reported across the globe, we’re probably all wondering whether that sneeze or cough may be a sign of the virus or just seasonal flu.

Covid-19 mimics some of the symptoms of the flu and the common cold, reports IFL Science.

Many infected individuals may also only experience mild symptoms with a persistent cough, fever and shortness of breath being the most common.

Its similarities to the flu and having a cold make it hard to diagnose without testing, but here are a few key differences.

“You start to see a cold, and the reason it’s called a cold is because you don’t have a fever,” Dr. William Heseltine, chair and president of Access Health International told PEOPLE.

Infections by Covid-19 initially are much like a colds – in the upper part of the respiratory system, but once it moves to the lower part that’s when people should be worried about it possibly being coronavirus.

“If it feels like it’s in your chest, and then deeper in your chest, that’s when it’s quite serious,” Haseltine says.

“That’s when your body starts reacting to it. Your body overreacts to it and creates the damage in your lungs, and that’s when it’s the most serious.”

He warns that patients should call their doctor or a hospital prior to getting tested and treated to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.

Another one Covid-19 may be confused for is the flu, which has the conflicting symptoms of fever, fatigue and body aches.

In severe cases of flu and coronavirus they may result in pneumonia, and the only way to tell the difference is by testing which is largely unavailable to most due to the high cost.

“When you go to the doctor, the first thing they’re likely to do is to give you a flu test to determine whether or not you’ve got the flu. And if you’ve got the flu, then it’s not this,” Dr. Robert Norton, a professor of public health at Auburn University, told PEOPLE.

However there is a key difference between the flu, a cold and coronavirus.

“One key difference between the three is a symptom of coronavirus is shortness of breath,” Ramzi Yacoub, a chief pharmacy officer, told Healthline.

“Shortness of breath is a common sign of COVID-19 which occurs prior to the development of pneumonia.

“Generally, the flu or a cold doesn’t cause shortness of breath unless it has progressed to pneumonia, in which case you’ll also want to contact your healthcare provider,” he says.

In South Africa, the government has made recommendations to its citizens to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Gatherings of more than 100 people have been prohibited and the population has been advised to minimise contact with others, according to the National Department of Health.

Sources: IFL Science, PEOPLE, Healthline, National Department of Health

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