Is it COVID-19 or Something Else?
It’s that time of year when “it’s going around”. What is “it” you ask………traditionally it could be a simple cold, allergies or the seasonal flu. Now that we are faced with the global pandemic of COVID-19 it’s important to recognize the similarities and differences in symptoms and how to manage them. Often it’s not as simple as the medical journals will try to make it out to be, so here are some tips to tell if the symptoms you are suffering are the common cold allergies vs the seasonal flu or COVID-19.
If I get the flu, how long am I contagious?
Most people are usually contagious 24 hours before and up to 5 days after symptom onset. It’s important that you stay home from work, school or other social gatherings if you develop flu-like symptoms for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided. If you live with others that are immunocompromised make sure they contact their doctor as soon as possible to evaluate if they are a candidate for post-exposure prophylaxis.
Once I get vaccinated for the seasonal flu, how long will it protect me?
The seasonal flu shot generally protects most people against the specific flu strains for 6-8 months. It’s important to note that the strains of the flu included in the vaccination vary from year to year, so if a new strain appears suddenly during the flu season, you may not have immunity towards it.
How do I treat my Flu symptoms?
Treatment of the flu virus mainly consists of supportive care……better known as fluids and lots of rest. Fever and aches can be relieved with the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen short term. Coughing can be relieved with over the counter cough remedies, be sure to consult your Pharmacist to ensure there are no drug interactions with your current medication regimen. There are some cases where patients that have risk factors or are immunocompromised in which post-exposure prophylaxis may be appropriate. However, your best bet is prevention with yearly vaccination.
What if it seems that my symptoms are more related to COVID-19?
If you have been in close contact with someone that has a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis it’s important that you be tested yourself. Typically, a person develops symptoms 5 days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary.There are a couple different options for testing at this point and the process is still evolving day by day as we learn more about the virus and potential treatment options. The most important thing you can do if you suspect you have a COVID-19 infection is to self isolate and contact your medical provider by phone to determine testing options and self care protocols. If you experience shortness of breath get emergency medical care immediately.