Is it dry cough COVID-19, RSV or the flu?  Here are the most common symptoms

Is it dry cough COVID-19, RSV or the flu? Here are the most common symptoms

If you feel like everyone you know is getting sick, it’s because they are. The Bay Area is hit with a triple virus threat.

Cases of COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus are increasing across the region and across the country, making it harder than ever to pinpoint what’s causing your dry cough or runny nose. The infections cause similar symptoms, but it’s important to know how to tell them apart to get proper treatment and avoid spreading them to others.

“Distinguishing COVID from the flu can be difficult because the symptoms overlap so much,” said Dr. Brooke Bozick, a respiratory disease expert at the National Institutes of Health.

COVID-19 shares several common symptoms with the flu — including fever, dry cough, body aches and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many familiar indicators of coronavirus infection have evolved as new variants emerge and immunity from vaccination or previous infection increases.

“As our bodies become more experienced with COVID, symptoms are milder overall,” said Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

A runny nose, headache or sore throat could now precede a positive coronavirus test result with one of omicron’s many ramifications, while the flu usually starts with a cough. Signs of a cold can include sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.

Some COVID indicators reported in earlier phases of the pandemic, such as loss of taste and smell, are less common now.

People infected with the flu usually develop symptoms about one to four days after infection. Symptoms of COVID-19 develop three to four days after being infected, but some people may show signs as early as two days or up to 14 days after infection.

RSV, which mainly affects children and the elderly, usually causes mild cold-like symptoms — such as a runny nose, cough, or wheezing — from which most people recover quickly. In infants younger than 6 months, the only indicators of RSV might be irritability, decreased activity and appetite, and pauses in breathing, according to the CDC.

But RSV can also lead to more serious infections like bronchiolitis or pneumonia, with such outcomes more likely in younger and older patients.

Tests are recommended to diagnose the specific virus, but here are some common symptoms to help you figure out what’s making you sick.

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