Is a dry cough COVID, RSV or the flu? Here are the most common symptoms

Is a dry cough COVID, RSV or the flu? Here are the most common symptoms

If it seems like everyone you know is sick, it’s because they are. It’s the Bay Area get hit with the triple threat virus.

COVID-19influenza and cases of respiratory syncytial virus are are growing throughout the region and nations, making it harder than ever to determine what’s causing your dry cough or runny nose. Infections cause similar symptoms, but it’s important to know how to tell them apart so you can get proper treatment and avoid spreading them to others.

“Distinguishing COVID from the flu can be difficult because the symptoms overlap so much,” said Dr. Brooke Bozick, a respiratory disease expert at the National Institutes of Health.

COVID-19 shares several common symptoms with the flu — including fever, dry cough, body aches and fatigue, according to center for disease control and prevention. But many known indicators of infection with the coronavirus have developed as new variants emerge and immunity from vaccination or previous infection increases.

“As our bodies become more experienced with COVID, symptoms are generally milder,” said Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF.

A runny nose, headache or sore throat could now precede a positive coronavirus test result with one of the many omicron shoots, while the flu usually starts with a cough. Signs of the common cold can include sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes.

Some indicators of COVID reported during the earlier stages of the pandemic, such as loss of taste and smell, they are less common now.

People infected with the flu usually develop symptoms one to four days after infection. Symptoms of COVID-19 develop three to four days after infection, but some people may show signs as early as two days or even 14 days after infection.

RSV, which mainly affects children and the elderly, usually causes mild cold-like symptoms — such as a runny nose, coughing, or wheezing — from which most people will recover quickly. In infants younger than 6 months, the only signs of RSV may be irritability, decreased activity and appetite, and pauses in breathing, according to the CDC.

But RSV can also lead to more severe infections such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, with such outcomes more likely among the youngest and oldest patients.

Testing to diagnose the specific virus is recommended, but here are some common symptoms to help you determine what you are sick with.

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