The question of cold, flu or COVID-19 is one of the most recurring when it comes to the symptoms caused by the coronavirus. The fact that all three viruses target the respiratory system is why they have similar symptoms.
However, what sets the COVID-19 disease apart from the aforementioned two is its specific combination of symptoms. Coronavirus symptoms also differ in intensity and in how they appear.
Symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the common signs of COVID-19 infection include a mixture of:
Shortness of breath
In more developed and severe cases, the infection can cause:
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
The early symptoms are often mild and may include nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. While not all of these symptoms show in all cases, many patients were reported having them.
Generally, the most recognized respiratory symptom that the COVID-19 coronavirus causes is the dry cough. This, coupled with a surge in the body’s temperature and noticeable shortness of breath are very often reported in cases of coronavirus infection.
Nonetheless, other symptoms have also been variably reported in many cases around the world. These include:
Less commonly, in more advanced cases of coronavirus infection, the symptoms may become more serious. These appear in 1 in every 6 cases of COVID-19.
The more severe symptoms of the coronavirus include the following:
Pneumonia; a respiratory inflammation in which the lungs fill with pus that may become solid. Pneumonia may affect one lung (single pneumonia) or both lungs (double pneumonia).
SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which is a serious complication that harms the respiratory system.
Kidney failure, which is a life-threatening complication characterized by the loss of kidney functions.
These complications can lead to death and they mostly emerge in older people and patients who readily suffer from other serious diseases and/or have a weak immune system.
For example people with medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.
How the coronavirus differs from the flu
As mentioned, the COVID-19 coronavirus causes symptoms that closely resemble those of the common cold or flu.
However, there are some indicators that can help identify the nature of the virus that’s causing these symptoms.
The incubation period
The first and biggest difference between the coronavirus and other viruses is the incubation period. This translates to the time it takes the virus to start causing symptoms after entering the body.
On average, it takes 24 to 72 hours for the effects of the common cold to begin showing, and 2-3 days for influenza.
Whereas for the coronavirus, the average incubation period is between 1 and 14 days, most commonly 5, according to WHO. Moreover, though less commonly, the period has exceeded 14 days in some cases.
Being exposed to a country or area that’s witnessing a COVID-19 epidemic increases your chances of contracting the coronavirus.
As such, taking your travel history into consideration when evaluating your symptoms further helps in determining if what you’re feeling is related to coronavirus infection.
Ultimately, there is no way to determine with certainty what is causing unwellness except by undergoing the necessary medical examinations.
Therefore, if you suspect that you might be infected with the coronavirus, directly head to an authorized health center specialized in dealing with COVID-19 cases.
In Lebanon, The Ministry of Public health carries out free laboratory analyses for the coronavirus at Rafik Hariri University Hospital. This applies to suspected patients who meet the definitions of the World Health Organization.
As there is so far no cure for the COVID-19 coronavirus, prevention is the best strategy against it.
To learn how to properly protect yourself and others from the new pandemic, read the prevention guidelines on our coronavirus information page.