Healthy Living Blog – What’s The Difference between The Common Cold, The Flu, and COVID-19?

Healthy Living Blog – What’s The Difference between The Common Cold, The Flu, and COVID-19?

The fall season marks the start of the cold and flu seasons. As it gets colder, more people stay indoors and get less sunlight, which lowers the amount of vitamin D the body makes. Having less vitamin D can weaken immune function, making it easier for people to get sick with the cold or the flu. The viruses that cause the cold, the flu, and COVID-19 attack the respiratory system. Older adults are more likely to have weaker immune systems, which means they are at risk of getting seriously sick with a cold or the flu or COVID-19. How can older adults tell the difference between these illnesses to make sure they get the right treatment?

The common cold

Colds can be caused by different viruses such as rhinoviruses and human coronaviruses. Rhinoviruses (meaning “virus of the nose”) are the most common cause. Cold symptoms come on slowly, within a couple of days. Most people recover within 7-10 days. Common symptoms include:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Aching (sometimes)

The flu versus COVID-19

The flu can be more serious than a cold. It’s caused by the influenza virus. Flu symptoms come on all of a sudden and most people recover within two weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose

Older adults, especially those with chronic conditions, are at a higher risk of having serious problems from the flu such as developing pneumonia.

COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, but COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). COVID-19 symptoms appear 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. These symptoms can range from mild to serious. In some cases, people with the virus might not show any symptoms — they are asymptomatic.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea

There is still a lot not known about COVID-19 since it’s a new illness in humans. Since humans don’t have immunity to COVID-19, it’s important for older adults to stay indoors, wear masks, physically distance, and practice good hygiene as much as possible. As flu season continues, it’s recommended that people get the flu vaccine to reduce the chances of getting sick with both the flu and COVID-19.

Flu vaccination for older adults

It’s recommended that older adults get one dose of the flu vaccine every year. There are two flu vaccine options that older adults can get:

  • High-dose shots. This vaccine has four times the flu antigen (the part of the vaccine that the immune system responds to) than regular-dose flu vaccines. These high-dose shots are made only for older adults so that they can have better protection against the flu.
  • Shots made with adjuvant. An adjuvant is an ingredient added to vaccines to help the immune system respond better to the antigen. These vaccines are also made only for older adults to boost their immune response and form better protection against the flu.

 

Have questions about flu shots or curious to learn more?  Please reach out to our Health Center and make an appointment to speak with a doctor. AACI provides services in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and many other languages. Call (408) 975-2763 to schedule your appointment today! AACI is also providing no cost COVID-19 community testing every Friday at our Story Road clinic.