The cold weather is not just an ideal time to curl under the blanket and read a good book. It is also the perfect time for viruses to spread since they thrive better in cold, dry air. That’s why the cold season is also referred to as the ‘flu season’.
Unfortunately, current studies have shown that the flu or influenza is not the only respiratory virus you should be worried about.
Reports have shown that there’s a rising case of individuals getting infected with RSV or respiratory syncytial virus during the flu season. Moreover, health authorities have been gearing up for the expected rise, yet again, in COVID-19 cases as new strains start to develop in other countries.
This possible “tripledemic” can be worrisome since most respiratory illnesses exhibit the same signs and symptoms. Read on below to learn more about this trifecta of viruses, their differences, and how to prevent them.
Respiratory illnesses are at an all-time high during the cold months due to a lot of factors: cold and dry air, reduced immune system, and lifestyle. These contributing factors allow the viruses to spread quickly and go from one person to another.
So if you have been nursing a cough, runny nose, or both, there’s a huge chance that you contracted a respiratory viral infection. But which one? Here are some of their distinct differences from one another.
What is it: The flu is a contagious illness that causes inflammation to the membrane of the respiratory tract or the nose, throat, and lungs. It is a common respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus, which has various strains.
How does it spread: The virus spreads from person to person through air droplet inhalation; when exposed to an infected person’s cough or sneeze. You can also get infected through direct contact with contaminated objects.
Symptoms: Generally, the flu only causes mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. However, immunocompromised patients may experience a more severe bout of symptoms.
How long does it last: Patients usually feel better after five days. However, general fatigue and tiredness may take up to two weeks before it clears out.
What to do: Most bouts of flu get better with ample rest, fluids, and OTC medications. It would also be better to isolate yourself to prevent its spread. For severe and persistent symptoms, doctors may prescribe antiviral medications.
What is it: The common cold is a respiratory illness caused by several viruses with various strains, such as rhinovirus. It mainly affects the upper respiratory tract, which is the nose and throat. Generally, common colds are harmless and milder than the flu; it usually goes away on their own with proper rest and hydration.
How does it spread: Like the flu, common colds can spread and infect individuals through air droplets and direct contact with contaminated objects.
Symptoms: Two to three days after exposure, you may experience nasal congestion, stuffy nose, sneezing, headaches, coughing, and sore throat.
What to do: There’s no definite cure for a cold since the immune system can quickly clear it out after a few days. Most symptoms can be managed by drinking plenty of water and using nasal decongestants, cough drops, and pain relievers.
What is it: RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common virus that affects the lungs and respiratory tract. It can affect people of all ages, but it primarily causes repercussions to infants and children.
How does it spread: It spreads through air inhalation or close contact with infected secretions from coughing or sneezing. You can also get it through direct contact with contaminated objects.
Symptoms: Generally, RSV causes cold-like symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, and fatigue. However, some individuals may experience severe symptoms, such as:
Additionally, RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis in adults and infants with severe forms of the disease.
What to do: Mild forms of RSV only last for about a week or two. But for severe cases, especially in infants, hospitalization may be needed.
What is it: COVID-19 is a novel respiratory illness caused by a specific coronavirus strain, the SARS-CoV2. It is a significantly contagious disease that affects the cells along the airways of the respiratory tract. As a result, it can cause chronic lung conditions, such as pneumonia, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and sepsis.
How does it spread: The coronavirus 19 spreads when an infected person releases viral particles into the air by coughing, sneezing, breathing, or talking.
Symptoms: An individual who got exposed to an infected person can develop symptoms after 2 to 14 days. An individual with COVID-19 can experience the following:
However, there are instances where an infected person won’t be able to experience any symptoms of the disease, making them asymptomatic but still infectious.
What to do: Individuals suspected of having the disease should get themselves tested. But regardless, anyone who exhibits the above-mentioned symptoms should immediately isolate, quarantine, and perform contact tracing.
Healthy individuals can clear out the virus with ample amount of rest, fluid intake, cough medications, and paracetamol. But for severe cases, hospitalization may be needed.
Most respiratory illnesses have the same modes of transmission, which are through inhalation of infected air droplets or direct contact with contaminated objects. So, here are some easy yet effective tips on preventing these diseases, especially during the flu season.
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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.
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