As COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives, it's important to be aware of other respiratory illnesses that cause similar symptoms. One of these illnesses is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common illness that typically affects children but can also affect adults. Another illness that can be mistaken for COVID-19 is influenza, known as the flu. It's important to know how to tell COVID-19, RSV, and the flu apart.
In this blog post, you will learn about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, and the seasonal flu, how to tell them apart, whether you can have more than one virus at the same time, what to do if you test positive, when to seek medical care, and how to prevent getting sick in the future.
Fast Facts About COVID-19, RSV, and the Flu
COVID-19, RSV, and the flu have similar symptoms, like fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches. However, some differences in symptoms can help you distinguish between these illnesses.
COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include a sore throat, cough, loss of taste or smell, and trouble breathing. Some people are asymptomatic, which means they don’t experience any symptoms.
RSV symptoms are similar to the common cold, such as a runny nose, cough, and mild fever. In severe cases, RSV infection can lead to more serious illnesses like pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
Flu symptoms are similar to COVID-19 and RSV but may include chills, headaches, and vomiting.
|Shortness of breath||Common||Sometimes||Rare|
|Loss of taste/smell||Common||Rare||Rare|
It's important to note that not everyone with these viruses will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may experience other symptoms not listed here.
Symptoms vary in severity from person to person. If you are experiencing symptoms of any of these viruses, you should get tested and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
COVID-19, RSV, and the flu are all respiratory illnesses that can cause similar signs and symptoms. However, some key differences help distinguish them from each other.
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and primarily spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person's nose or mouth. Some common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
While some people experience mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, others can become severely ill, particularly those who are older, have weakened immune systems, or have underlying chronic medical conditions. COVID-19 can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and organ failure.
Visit our FAQ about Symptoms for more information and treatment options.
Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that can cause illness in people of all ages, but is most severe in very young infants, children, and older adults. RSV spreads through respiratory secretions and contact with contaminated surfaces. Some common RSV symptoms include:
Most people recover from RSV without treatment, but severe symptoms can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia, particularly in infants and older adults.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses and is highly contagious. It is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Some common flu symptoms include:
Most people with the flu recover within a few days to two weeks, but some develop severe complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. The flu can be particularly dangerous for young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
It is possible to have more than one virus at the same time. For example, you could be infected with COVID-19 and RSV simultaneously. If you have symptoms of multiple illnesses, you should get tested so you can receive appropriate medical care.
Getting tested for COVID-19, RSV, and the flu is essential for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. In the United States, testing for these respiratory illnesses is widely available through healthcare providers and testing centers.
There are Test to Treat locations in communities across America where you can get tested and receive follow-up treatment.
You can also access COVID-19 testing from your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or local health department.
At-home tests can be purchased from retailers in your community and online. You can also get free COVID-19 tests from the United States Postal Services website. Click here to submit an order.
COVID-19 tests are typically done using a nasal or throat swab, and results can be available within hours to several days, depending on the type of test. Check out our recent article about the different types of COVID-19 tests to learn more.
Testing for RSV and the flu can be done through your healthcare provider, pharmacies, or local health department. RSV testing typically involves a nasal swab, and flu testing is done through a nasal or throat swab or a blood test.
It's important to note that testing availability and requirements may vary depending on your location and individual circumstances. Some testing sites may require an appointment or a referral from a healthcare provider, while others may offer walk-in testing.
The United States Food & Drug Administration recently authorized over-the-counter tests that can detect COVID-19 and the flu, helping people quickly receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
If you're experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness, getting tested right away can help prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure you receive timely medical care. If you test positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department.
If you test positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, you should follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. Here are some additional things you can do after being diagnosed with a respiratory illness.
As soon as you receive a positive test result, it's crucial to stay home and isolate yourself from others, including family members and friends, to prevent the spread of the virus. Follow the guidelines your local health department or doctor provides on how long you should isolate, which may vary depending on the specific virus.
If you had close contact with anyone when you were contagious, you should notify them so they can take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others. Close contacts typically include people you have been within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes, starting two days before your symptoms (or two days before your positive test if you are asymptomatic).
Always consult your healthcare provider for specific medical advice and follow their instructions carefully. They may prescribe medications, provide guidance on managing symptoms, and monitor your condition. In some instances, you may be eligible for antiviral medication to help control the duration and severity of your illness.
Be sure to promptly communicate any changes in your symptoms or health status to your healthcare provider and seek emergency medical attention if needed.
Rest, stay hydrated, and take over-the-counter medications as directed by your healthcare provider to relieve symptoms such as fever, cough, or congestion. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption, as these can worsen respiratory symptoms. If you have any underlying health conditions, follow your healthcare provider's advice on managing them while you are ill.
Follow proper hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the virus to others. This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, disposing of used tissues properly, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical attention if they worsen. Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, or severe or persistent symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.
Stay informed and follow the latest public health guidelines and recommendations from local health authorities, the CDC, or other reputable sources. This may include guidance on mask-wearing, social distancing, and other preventive measures to help reduce the spread of the virus in your community.
Remember, testing positive for COVID-19, RSV, or the flu does not necessarily mean you will experience severe illness. Still, it's important to take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of the virus to others and take care of your health.
Here is a summary of five things to watch for to help you decide when to seek medical attention if you have COVID-19, RSV, or the flu:
Remember, it's always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you have concerns about your health. Your healthcare provider can provide the best guidance on when to seek additional medical attention based on your circumstances.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu involves individual and collective measures. Here are some effective prevention measures:
Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu when vaccines are available. Vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself and those around you from these viruses. The flu vaccine is updated annually based on the dominant strain, and helps provide robust protection from flu complications.
Our FAQ section has details on approved COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination schedules, and where to get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends RSV immunizations to protect those at higher risk, including:
Check the CDC website for more information on who can receive the RSV vaccine.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
Wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of your face.
Visit the CDC website for details on how to access free high-quality masks.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay at least six feet away from others in public settings.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, stay home and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, and phones, using a household disinfectant.
Increase ventilation by opening windows or using air filters to help reduce the concentration of respiratory droplets in the air.
Following these preventive measures can help protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19, RSV, and the flu. Read our blog post about COVID-19 prevention tips to learn more.
COVID-19 is a serious illness that has significantly impacted our lives, but it's not the only virus we need to be aware of. By knowing the signs and symptoms of other respiratory illnesses, seeking medical care when necessary, and taking steps to prevent getting sick in the future, you can help protect yourself and those around you during peak flu season and year-round.
Picture this scenario: You fall ill with COVID-19 and feel overwhelmed and unsure about your next steps. Now, imagine the immense relief that washes over you when you have a COVID-19 home care kit ready to go. It's more than just a kit; it's peace of mind.
Life has a way of surprising us, and COVID-19 is a testament to that. While none of us ever expects to get this virus, we can absolutely prepare ourselves for the unexpected.
In this blog post, we're covering everything you need to know about:
Stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content, and ensure you have ample soap for regular handwashing. It is important to wash your hands regularly, especially when you are contagious.
Masks are an effective barrier against the spread of COVID-19. Have high-quality and appropriately sized masks on hand for everyone in the family caring for someone sick or using shared spaces. Click here to find free masks in your community.
Gloves come in handy (pun intended!) when touching items from a sick family member or taking care of them.
Cleaning high-touch areas like door knobs, light switches, and shared devices is a must when you or a family member is contagious.
A reliable thermometer can help you accurately monitor your fever, a common symptom of COVID-19. Visit our FAQ section for more information about common symptoms of COVID-19.
An oximeter measures your oxygen levels and can provide early warning signs if your respiratory health is declining.
Ensure you have a supply of prescription medications and regular vitamins or supplements so you don't run out while recovering from COVID-19.
Keep fever reducers, cough medicine, anti-inflammatories, lozenges, and other common illness medications on hand.
Build a stash of non-perishable food items like soup, juice, crackers, pasta, rice, and canned fruits and vegetables. Prioritize nutrient-rich grab-and-go options to ensure you can continue nourishing yourself even when you're not feeling well enough to cook.
Stay hydrated with an adequate supply of bottled water. Bottled water is helpful when you are too sick to regularly refill your water.
The path to recovery from COVID-19 can be long, and the symptoms may take a toll on your well-being. Consider adding these extras to your kit for a touch of comfort and distraction:
Recovering from an illness sometimes feels like an eternity, especially if you're isolated from the outside world. To combat the monotony and boost your spirits, include items like books, puzzles, or even a streaming service subscription in your kit. These forms of entertainment provide a much-needed escape from reality and keep your mind engaged.
Little comforts can make a big difference when you aren't feeling well!
Soft, cozy blankets and comfortable pillows transform your space into a haven of relaxation. Aromatherapy can create a soothing atmosphere through candles and essential oil diffusers with scents like lavender or eucalyptus.
And don't forget to treat yourself to your favorite snacks or comfort foods to lift your spirits and help you stay nourished.
Prioritizing your mental health when you are sick is important, and having access to the right resources makes a big difference.
Consider diving into self-help books or journaling. Meditation and mindfulness apps teach you to manage your stress and anxiety, which might be at an all-time high as you recover!
Virtual therapy sessions, readily available from many therapists, offer professional support if you are overwhelmed or struggling.
Unlocking the full potential of your COVID-19 home care kit involves more than just stocking it with essentials. We've got a few additional tips to help you maximize its effectiveness.
In the unfortunate event that you or a household member falls ill with COVID-19, you should have a plan in place to minimize the potential impact of the virus.
If possible, designate specific rooms for isolation and separate bathroom use to minimize the risk of spreading the virus within your household. Make sure the sick individual has access to all necessary items from the kit to support their recovery. Check out our blog post about preventing the spread of COVID-19 for more tips on staying safe.
Regular maintenance of your COVID-19 home care kit will help ensure its effectiveness. Keep these things in mind:
A well-stocked COVID-19 home care kit might make all the difference in your comfort and well-being if you get sick. We encourage you to assemble your kit now, so that you have everything you need if you contract COVID-19 and are stuck at home.
While COVID-19's unpredictability is a constant, proactive preparedness is a powerful way to regain a sense of control and readiness.
COVID-19 cases are rising again, serving as a stark reminder that the virus remains present in our lives. It's time for a refresher on how to stay safe amidst rising cases in the United States.
This blog post will touch on updated information about current variants and give you tips on how to avoid contracting COVID-19. We will also review extra precautions that high-risk individuals should consider.
Together, we can navigate these challenging times and come out stronger on the other side. Let's get started!
There has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the United States, and many wonder about the role of variants in driving the virus's spread. Two specific variants have recently come under the spotlight in the scientific community: BA.2.86, known as Pirola, and EG.5, which goes by the moniker Eris.
BA.2.86, or Pirola, has made its presence known within the United States, albeit in limited numbers so far. Initially, there was apprehension due to the variant's remarkable number of mutations.
These mutations sparked concerns that Pirola could circumvent immunity developed through vaccinations or previous infections. Preliminary data suggests that this variant may not be as contagious or immune-evading as initially feared, offering a glimmer of hope amid the ongoing challenges.
The predominant variant currently in circulation across the United States is EG.5, also known as Eris. All the variants we're grappling with are rooted in the Omicron lineage, and they share a common characteristic: mutations with the potential to enhance transmissibility and capacity to bypass prior immunity.
Despite the recent increase in cases attributed to these Omicron-based variants, there's a noteworthy difference in the severity of illness. Compared to the early days of the pandemic, current cases tend to be less severe, and mortality rates have decreased.
Now is the perfect time to revisit the preventive measures that medical experts have been encouraging since 2020. These practices help us protect ourselves and our communities. Let's refresh our memory on how to stay safe and healthy.
Vaccination is an essential tool in our COVID-19 defense arsenal. It significantly reduces your risk of falling seriously ill, winding up in the hospital, and spreading the virus to others.
The best part? Vaccines are as easy to find as your favorite takeout spot! Visit our Vaccine Information page for more information and an online tool to help you find a vaccination location in your community.
Face masks might not be as flashy as capes, but they're superheroes in their own right when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Slip on a mask when you're indoors, especially in places where it gets cozy and crowded. A well-fitted, high-quality mask, like an N95 or KN95, helps filter out particles as you breathe, making it harder for the virus to enter your body through your nose or mouth.
Check out the Mayo Clinic’s article about masks and how to use them effectively.
Social distancing is all about giving yourself literal breathing room, especially in crowded places.
The COVID-19 virus can only travel so far, and the more distance you have between yourself and others, the less likely it is that the virus can reach you and cause infection. Social distancing helps break the chain of person-to-person transmission.
A simple rule of thumb is to keep at least 6 feet of distance from people who aren't part of your household.
Hand washing is your secret weapon against lots of contagious illnesses! The key is to do it right: wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice in your head – that's about the right amount of time.
Wash your hands before you eat, when you return home from public spaces, and after using the bathroom. You should also wash your hands if you have sneezed or coughed into them, and after blowing your nose.
Hand sanitizers are helpful when you’re on the go and soap and water are not readily available. Look for sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content for peak effectiveness.
Good ventilation is like a breath of fresh air for indoor spaces, especially when it comes to reducing the concentration of viral particles.
Open windows are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to improve ventilation. You can also keep doors ajar and turn on fans to decrease the accumulation of virus particles in the air.
This interactive home ventilation tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you learn more about how ventilation affects virus particle levels.
Some individuals continue to face a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Adopting the right strategies can make a difference, whether you or someone close to you falls into this category. Below are some things to consider.
High-risk individuals should minimize their exposure to crowded places and situations where maintaining physical distance is challenging.
Opting for outdoor activities provides better airflow and more space to keep a safe distance from others while still enjoying social gatherings. When shopping or running errands, consider off-peak hours or take advantage of delivery services to reduce contact with people.
Regardless of vaccination status, high-risk individuals should continue following preventive measures diligently. This includes wearing masks, practicing thorough hand hygiene, and maintaining social distancing.
Healthcare professionals can offer valuable insights into whether additional precautions are necessary. Discuss your specific risks and seek tailored guidance based on your health conditions.
Staying updated on regional COVID-19 trends, vaccination recommendations, and specific guidelines for high-risk individuals in your area is also helpful.
As we face another upswing in COVID-19 cases, it's a good time to refresh the habits that protect ourselves and our communities. The emergence of new variants like BA.2.86 and EG.5 reminds us that the virus is still a threat, but our collective actions can make a significant difference in controlling its spread!
Check out our Latest News page for even more COVID-19 updates and resources.