General Practice 2022

COVID, flu or cold: symptoms and when to go to the médico

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COVID, flu or cold: symptoms and when to go to the médico
COVID, flu or cold: symptoms and when to go to the médico
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COVID-19, flu and cold are viral infections that affect the respiratory system and, therefore, can present very similar symptoms such as fever, sore throat, stuffy nose and tiredness, for example.

However, there are some differences between these infections, especially in the frequency of each symptom. Knowing the main differences between COVID-19, the flu and the cold can be a good way to know when you need to go to the hospital or have a more differentiated treatment.

In any case, it is always advisable to go to the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and start the most appropriate treatment, especially if there are very intense symptoms.

How to differentiate symptoms

Although they have similar symptoms, COVID-19, the flu and the cold have some differences:

COVID-19

Flu

Cold

Duration of symptoms Between 5 days to several weeks 7 to 10 days 2 to 4 days

Tiredness

Common Common Sometimes

Fever

Common, above 38º C Common, high fever Low fever or no fever

Cough

Common, usually dry and persistent Common, usually dry Moderate

Loss of smell/taste

Common, starts suddenly and often without having a stuffy nose Rare Sometimes usually associated with stuffy nose

Headache

Common Common Rare

Body pain

Common Common Common

Stuffy or runny nose

Rare Sometimes Common

Sore throat

Sometimes Sometimes Common

Sneezing

Absent Absent Common

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Common Sometimes Absent

Diarrhea

Sometimes, especially in children Sometimes, especially in children Absent

Nausea and vomiting

Sometimes, especially in children Sometimes, especially in children Absent

Regardless of the cause, hygiene measures should always be adopted to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, flu or cold viruses. Therefore, in case of symptoms, you should wear a mask, wash your hands and apply alcohol gel frequently, for example, in addition to avoiding close contact with other people.

When to go to the doctor

Most of COVID-19, flu or cold infections have mild symptoms that can be relieved at home without any specific treatment, just rest and drink plenty of fluids.

However, it is recommended to consult a general practitioner when symptoms are more intense, such as:

  • High fever, above 39ºC;
  • Intense and generalized muscle pain;
  • Feeling short of breath;
  • Chest pain.

If the doctor suspects COVID-19, the diagnosis needs to be confirmed using the RT-PCR test. Check out all the tests indicated for COVID-19.

How the treatment is done

Treatment may vary depending on the type of infection. In cases of flu and cold, treatment can be done at home with rest and hydration, but in cases of COVID-19 it is necessary to go to the doctor, as the initial symptoms can worsen in a short time, requiring medical advice.

Also, whenever you need to use medication to relieve a symptom, you should also go to the doctor.

In the most serious cases of COVID-19 and flu, hospital admission and use of more specific medicines indicated by the doctor may be necessary, such as remdesivir or baricitinib in COVID-19, and Tamiflu in the flu, for example.See all approved drugs for COVID-19.

What to do in case of COVID-19

If you have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, have a positive test or are in contact with someone infected, please fill in your details to find out what to do:

  • option=b, @block-A1"' > I tested positive for COVID-19.
  • option=c, @block-A1"' > I have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
  • option=d, @block-A1"' > I've been in contact with positive case.
  • option=f, @block-F1"' > I've had COVID-19, but I still have symptoms.
  • option=e, @block-A1"' > I want to know more information.
  • country=en, @block-B1"}, {"condition":"option=c", "action":">country=en, @block-C1"}, {"condition":"option=d", "action":">country=en, @block-D2"}, {"condition":"option=e", "action":">country=en, @block-E1"}]' > Portugal
  • country=br, @block-B1"}, {"condition":"option=c", "action":">country=br, @block-C1"}, {"condition":"option=d", "action":">country=br, @block-D1"}, {"condition":"option=e", "action":">country=br, @block-E1"}]' >
  • Self-test.
  • Rapid antigen test.
  • RT-PCR.
  • Restart

    • I have no symptoms.
    • I only have mild symptoms (fever, cough, tiredness, headache, sore throat, loss of taste…).
    • I have moderate symptoms (very intense cough, some shortness of breath, excessive tiredness…).
    • I'm really short of breath.
    • Restart

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    • No.
    • I did a self-test
    • I did a rapid antigen test.
    • I did RT-PCR test.
    • Restart

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    • RT-PCR for COVID-19: when to do it and results

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    • test=0"' > Negative
    • test=1"' > Positive
    • Restart

      It is possible that your symptoms are a sign of another infection, such as the flu or H3N2, for example. Still, we advise you to repeat the COVID-19 test within the next 3 days. Check out the differences between flu, COVID-19 and a cold.

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    • risk=1, @block-D5"' > I live with the person who tested positive.
    • I have been in direct contact with the positive person (less than 2 meters) for more than 15 minutes and I am a he alth professional or work in an institution for the elderly.
    • risk=0"' > The person who tests positive does not live with me.
    • Restart

      • Yes.
      • No.

      Your contact is considered high risk. You do not need to isolate yourself, but you must maintain all personal protective measures for 14 days, be aware of the appearance of symptoms and perform a COVID test as soon as possible (rapid test or RT-PCR).If the result of the 1st test is negative, you must repeat the test between the 3rd and 5th day after contact with the positive person.

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    • RT-PCR for COVID-19: when to do it and results

    Restart

    Your contact is considered low risk. For this reason, you don't need to do isolation, or perform COVID test. However, you must maintain all personal protective measures (such as wearing a mask and avoiding unnecessary travel) and be aware of the appearance of symptoms in the next 14 days.

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