“Is it just a normal cold or more? – How to detect various monsoon illnesses”

Our Bureau
  • The author of this article is Dr. Arati Joshi, Consultant- General Physician & Diabetologist

The Coronavirus pandemic originating from Hubei province and its capital Wuhan in China has scared the world because of its rapid spread and easy infection transmission.  Several coronaviruses can infect humans. The globally endemic coronaviruses are:

  • HCoV229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-HKU1, and HCo-OC43- that tend to cause mild respiratory diseases
  • The zoonotic Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) with a higher fatality rate

The virus spreads through droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes and the virus gets deposited on a nearby surface. If one touches the surface, it gets transmitted to the hand and becomes potential for infection.

Nature of the disease:

Symptoms of these diseases are influenza-like and include fever, malaise, myalgia (muscle pain), headache, diarrhoea, and shivering (rigors). No individual symptom or cluster of symptoms has proved to be specific for the diagnosis of COVID-19 or coronavirus infection. Although fever is the most frequently reported symptom, it is sometimes absent on initial measurement, especially in elderly and immune-suppressed patients.

Cough (initially dry), shortness of breath, and diarrhoea are often present in the first and/or second week of illness (most infective period for spread). Severe cases often evolve rapidly, progressing to respiratory distress and requiring intensive care. Elderly patients, patients with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer patients, and immune-compromised patients are at a higher risk.

COVID-19, the common cold, seasonal allergies, and the flu have many similar signs and symptoms. How can one differentiate from another?

All are respiratory viral diseases are contagious and spread by droplet infection. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 while common cold is caused by rhinoviruses, and flu is spread by the influenza group of viruses. The incubation period for COVID -19 is between 2-14 days, for the common cold, it is 1-3 days and for the flu, it is 1- 4 days.

Seasonal allergies are mainly due to change in season and or exposure to allergens. Most of the time all these diseases exhibit similar symptoms. Listed below are the salient differences between the symptoms:

Symptoms or signsCOVID-19COLDAllergyFlu
Sore throatUsuallyUsuallyRarelyUsually
Itchy nose, mouth, inner earNeverUsuallyUsuallyUsually
Muscle acheUsuallysometimesNeverUsually
DiarrheasometimesRarelyNeversometimes (mostly in children)
Nausea/vomitingsometimesRarelyNeversometimes (mostly in children)
Loss of taste or smellUsually (early-without runny or stuffy nose)sometimes (with stuffy nose)RarelyRarely
Pink Eyesometimessometimessometimessometimes

How can one avoid contracting these infections?

Vaccinate yourself as early as possible. Various vaccines for COVID-19 as well as flu are available. Vaccination will help protect from these serious infections.

Apart from vaccination, one has to follow the below-listed precautions, like:

  • Avoiding close contact (within 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone outside your household, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness
  • Wearing a face mask in indoor public spaces and outdoors where there is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmissions, such as at a crowded event or a large gathering
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoiding crowded indoor spaces
  • Covering your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics, and counters, daily

How can one prevent allergic reactions?

In case of known allergies, stay away from the known triggers like dust, pollens, etc. You can also wear a mask and follow standard precautions against the infection.


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