Coronavirus disease and seasonal flu — a double threat

  • Symptoms that point more toward COVID-19 are a severe form of shortness of breath, and a change in taste or smell.

RIYADH : As the flu season begins with the change in weather and mercury levels dropping, many people are worrying about the twin threat of influenza and the coronavirus.

While the onset of winter make thousands of people ill with flu every year, this time round the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to health concerns.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Shaikh Abdullah, a member of the UK-based Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Riyadh, said: “With flu season rapidly approaching and winter colds on the way, it is going to be easy for people to confuse one of the more common ailments with the new coronavirus disease.”

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illness this fall and winter caused by different viruses — such as flu caused by influenza viruses and common colds caused by rhinoviruses — is more important than ever.”

Anyone who is not sure whether what they have is a cold, flu or the coronavirus should self-isolate and seek medical advice, Dr. Abdullah said.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, common colds and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone and the only way to tell, for certain, is to take the test, he said.

However, there are some ways that could help people to decide which of the viruses they have picked up.

“Having a runny nose is a big sign that what you have is a cold, and while COVID-19 has more specific symptoms of dry cough, fever and loss of smell or taste, the flu usually affects the whole body,” said Dr. Abdullah, who also works with the National Guard Health Affairs.

With these predominating symptoms, it can help to differentiate between respiratory illnesses.
“During the common cold, less of the body is affected with symptoms focused on the mouth and nose, but with the flu you expect the body as a whole to be affected. With COVID-19, the persistent fever, dry cough — and features like taste and smell loss — can suggest this may be the cause,” Dr. Abdullah said.

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