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Is It Flu, COVID-19, Allergies, or a Cold?
Feeling sick can be especially concerning these days. Could your sniffles be caused by COVID-19? Or the flu? A cold? Or maybe allergies? Determining the cause of an illness can be tricky because many share some symptoms. They can leave you sniffling, coughing, and feeling tired. But there are important differences. Figuring out what’s making you sick can help you recover and prevent spreading sickness to others.
Wintery Mix of Viruses
Winter is the prime cold and flu season. You’re more likely to be indoors and closer to others when it’s colder outside. Weather also plays a role in the spread of viruses.
“Cold and flu viruses survive better and are more transmissible if it’s cooler and if there’s lower humidity,” Gordon explains.
Experts are concerned that flu and COVID-19 cases may increase and overlap in the winter. Flu cases usually start to increase around October and peak between December and February. Being infected with flu and SARS-CoV-2 at the same time is possible, as is showing symptoms of both.
If you’re sick with the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs. Such drugs can make your flu milder and shorten the time you are sick. They work best if they’re used early in your illness.
Fortunately, strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also prevent the spread of flu and cold. “Measures like masking and social distancing work for other respiratory viruses, as well as COVID-19,” says Dr. Chip Walter, who studies vaccine development at Duke University.
To learn more about cold, flu, allergies, and COVID-19, visit the NIH News In Health website.