▶️ A cold, the flu or COVID? Doctors say it’s difficult to tell without a test


If you start feeling sick, how can you know if you have a cold, the flu or COVID-19 before getting tested?

“The quick answer is we can’t tell,” Dr. Rebecca Hicks, a pediatrician with Mosaic Medical, said. “All three illnesses can present exactly the same, and thus the need for testing and for seeking out testing with a health care provider if you have any symptoms.”

Dr. Hicks said during a typical year, sicknesses fall somewhere on a spectrum. A severe flu is on one side of the spectrum, a severe cold is on the other side and people with mild symptoms fall somewhere in the middle. Testing can help explain exactly what you have when it’s not clear.

But the severity of COVID-19 can fall anywhere on that spectrum.

“COVID-19 can present like a common cold,” Dr. Hicks said. “It can present with just a bit of a runny nose or completely asymptomatic as we know. And then it can present in that middle group where you feel crummy, maybe you have a fever for a day or two and you have a cough or it can present very dramatically.”

If you do get sick, Dr. Hicks said it’s not an overreaction to reach out to your doctor right away.

“That’s totally appropriate especially if you’re a person that needs to go to a workplace, or if it’s a child that needs to go to daycare or school,” Dr. Hicks said.

You should talk to a doctor immediately if you are high-risk and experiencing symptoms. People who aren’t high-risk who are experiencing symptoms should isolate and see how their symptoms progress.

“Any symptom that lasts more than 24 hours — certainly you’re at home during that 24 hours — and if it’s still there after 24 hours, seek out advice from your health care provider,” Dr. Hicks said.



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