How do we differentiate between a common flu, seasonal allergy and Covid-19, with the latest outbreak of the pandemic resurfacing in many cities and with the monsoon as a breeding ground for various microbes? Most importantly, when should we get tested?
dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi says: “The Covid-19 virus is mutating to attack as many new hosts as possible and attacking the vulnerable population. Therefore, during the first wave, the most vulnerable to Covid were especially elderly people with comorbidities. By the time the second and third waves happened, most elderly people had antibodies after contracting the infection and had been vaccinated. So now the virus has moved into the second most vulnerable group, or mediocre adults. Once this wave is over, much of this population would also be immune.”
So the only way to get immunity to this virus is in the form of natural antibodies after you get the infection or get vaccinated. There is no quick way to get rid of the virus other than living with our vulnerabilities and protecting them as much as possible.
Symptoms to watch out for
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According to Dr. Chatterjee this time, the infected show different symptoms that make it difficult to establish a definitive, uniform pattern. “Symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, body aches and high fever are the most common symptoms in this round,” he adds, most of which overlap with symptoms of seasonal and stomach flu.
When to get tested?
Understand your fever patterns. “The main difference between a normal and Covid-induced fever is that the former subsides within a few days and is generally low-grade in nature with intermittent remissions. With Covid-19, the fever is consistently high and can last up to three to four days. Self-testing with a Rapid Antigen Kit can be useful for confirming Covid. Today, however, the symptoms can also be confused with seasonal flu or heat stroke as both show similar symptoms. So if a fever persists, get tested. It is advisable to consult a doctor instead of indulging in self-medication. If you fall into the high risk category, it is also advisable to get tested earlier,” says Dr Chatterjee.
Seasonal Flu vs Covid
“Seasonal flu rarely affects the lower airways or lungs. While the latest Covid attack caused by the Omicron variants affects the upper respiratory tract, it can escalate quickly and cause respiratory distress and lower oxygen levels. So keep an eye out. Yet there are many differences between seasonal flu and Covid. Seasonal flu has a pattern of occurring during seasonal changes and is most common during the winter. Covid can occur all year round. The contagiousness of Covid is much higher than any other viral pneumonia. The seasonal flu is manifested by usually mild symptoms, except in patients with pre-existing respiratory diseases, such as asthma, COPD, or ILD. Covid has a higher morbidity index. Covid can cause damage to multiple organs and long-lasting symptoms, the common flu doesn’t affect other systems as much. Unlike Covid, flu can be detected clinically. Control of flu is mainly symptomatic with acetaminophen and antiallergic drugs. Since the manifestations of Covid vary from person to person, it is absolutely important to follow the doctor’s guidelines,” said Dr. Neetu Jain, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Intensive Care, Sleep Medicine, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.
Practices that people should apply
Although we are still living with Covid, the preventive measures are not changing.
• Self-isolation is recommended if you have a fever, until the possibility of Covid has been ruled out.
• Don’t compromise on the discipline of the relaxed mask. “At all times, wear them in a virus-prone area or an indoor environment where transmission is easier,” says Dr. Chatterjee.
• Maintain appropriate Covid behavior at all times, be it wearing masks, washing and sanitizing hands, maintaining social distancing and isolating yourself when faced with a Covid-related symptom.