Is it Covid-19, flu or infection of respiratory tract: How to find difference



As winter is just around the corner, flu season has begun to ramp up globally. However, amid the ongoing battle of Covid-19, it is almost impossible for a common man to spot the difference between the two infections. Besides, infection of the respiratory tract is the third kind of health issue that shares similarities with the symptoms of the aforementioned infections.

What is the difference between the flu, Covid-19, and respiratory tract infection?

The flu, coronavirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all highly contagious respiratory infections caused by different viruses. While Covid happens due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and RSV by the respiratory syncytial virus. It is possible for a person to be infected with multiple viruses at the same time.

According to, a respiratory tract infection is an infection of the lungs, airways, sinuses, or throat, while respiratory infections occur year-round, there is a significant increase in these infections during the fall and winter months (cold and flu season) when people tend to spend more time inside.

Symptoms of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV?

According to the US CDC, the flu and Covid-19 share very similar symptoms. It can take longer for people infected with SARS-CoV-2 to show symptoms and people stay infectious longer than with the flu. A symptom that seems to be unique to COVID-19 is loss of taste or smell. Both viruses can cause:

  • Fevers
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose

The respiratory tract infection can infect anyone but is most dangerous in infants and the elderly. Its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold. They tend to run their course with only mild intensity in adults and older children. In infants and the elderly, symptoms tend to be more severe, and can include fevers and wheezing. Some cases may require hospitalization, but most infections run their course within 1 to 2 weeks.

How to spot the difference between the flu and Covid?

Since the symptoms are so similar, the best way to accurately determine whether you have Covid-19 or the flu is to get tested. One can determine the difference through an at-home kit, or can take Rapid Antigen Test or RT-PCR at a nearby hospital.

How do I treat the flu, COVID-19, and RSV?

If you are Covid positive and have mild/ severe treatment, the ideal thing to do is take teleconsultation and purchase medicine accordingly. If not taken the vaccine yet, it is advisable to do that first. There are several anti-Covid vaccines on the market at present.

However, for flu or RSV, there’s no such exclusive vaccine for them. One should go to the doctor for a proper check-up.

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