With cold and flu season approaching as temperatures drop, and experts are watching for a potential further increase in COVID cases. many might wonder what exactly is behind their symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of COVID, especially in 2022 so far, overlap with several conditions, including colds and flu.
Although upper respiratory tract symptoms are currently the most telling sign of the virus, some changes in symptoms have been observed as the virus progresses.
“We see a lot of things happening with the changing virus, you know,” Dr. Isaac Ghinai, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health who oversees COVID-19 testing and surveillance, said earlier this month. laboratory monitoring. “Omicron and its sublines are an example of the virus changing quite a bit, and there are indications that different lines of the virus may cause slightly different symptoms.”
Ghinai said differences in symptoms may also be affected by the introduction of vaccines and their subsequent widespread use nearly a year into the pandemic.
“There are indications for example, with omicron, that loss of taste and smell is less common than it was with some of the earlier lines. All of this is also likely impacted by the fact that many more people are vaccinated than before,” Ghinai said.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, early symptoms of COVID typically include fatigue, headache, sore throat, or fever.
A study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that a fever could be the first, along with a cough and muscle aches. Afterwards, those infected will likely experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Unlike other respiratory illnesses such as MERS and SARS, COVID patients will likely develop nausea and vomiting before diarrhea, the researchers found.
Digestive symptoms, in some cases, may be the first sign that a person has contracted COVID. They are known to develop early in an infection, with respiratory symptoms possibly following a day later, according to an Emerson Health article.
Still, some symptoms, such as shortness of breath, have become less frequent as the virus continues to mutate. Dr. Sharon Welbel, director of hospital epidemiology and infection control for Cook County Health, said earlier this month that fever and cough have become more common symptoms in recent months.
“In terms of symptoms and what people have, it’s so heterogeneous,” Welbel said. “I find that with omicron we know the most common are always fever, cough – plus as much shortness of breath.”
As for the flu, the season hasn’t “started in a serious way yet,” according to Chicago’s top doctor. In the meantime, health experts are warning residents of flu and COVID-19 symptoms while encouraging vaccination for both.
According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the two viruses have multiple strains that are active at the same time, resulting in minor differences in symptoms from case to case.
Because COVID and flu symptoms are often extremely similar, Arwady said there’s only one way to know for sure which virus you may have contracted.
“Typically, people who get the flu tend to have a fever, body aches, feel like they’ve been hit by a truck, and may feel very sick. Of course, people can also contracting those who have COVID is that you have to take a test to be sure,” Arwady said.
But what about some of the less common symptoms?
During a Facebook Live on Tuesday, Arwady answered a question regarding vertigo, a symptom that has been reported in some while recovering from COVID.
Arwady said that while patients may be more susceptible to developing dizziness while recovering from COVID, the symptom is not specific to the virus and has been linked to other infections during recovery.
“We see people after an ear infection, after an influenza infection, a number of things can make people more likely to develop dizziness. And so generally you may be a little more likely to develop dizziness if you recently recovered from COVID,” Arwadi said.
As cases continue to occur, many are curious about other symptoms, such as rashes or headaches.
“We’re seeing a lot more sore throat, fatigue, it still seems like a fever and a runny nose,” Arwady said, pointing out that while headaches and rashes can be symptoms of COVID, no d them is “one of the main .”
As for the symptoms that often persist the longest? A cough.
“It’s going to last the longest, almost forever,” Chicago’s top doctor, Allison Arwady, said at a press conference earlier this month. “Coughing tends to be the most lingering effect. This is true whenever you have a viral infection. You may feel totally better and you will still have some irritation.”
The latest BA.5 variant remains the main driver of COVID cases in the United States, although newer variants are slowly starting to gain momentum. New omicron-specific boosters have recently become readily available, with health officials encouraging widespread inoculation ahead of an expected spike in cases over the fall and winter months.
Regardless of changes in symptoms, Ghinai said getting vaccinated and boosted can significantly improve symptoms of the virus if infected.
“Certainly, the severity of symptoms if you’re vaccinated is much less and the severity of symptoms if you’re boosted is even less, which can kind of change the look,” Ghinai said.
The CDC says the median time to onset of symptoms in a patient with the different omicron lineages could be as little as three days.
In general, symptoms will usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC. However, their duration may depend on the person, the severity of their infection, and whether or not they end up with long COVID.
“Some people say they feel better within a day, others say they still have lingering symptoms after three weeks,” Welbel said.
The most common symptoms of the virus include:
– Fever or chills
– Shortness of breath
– Muscle or body pain
-New loss of taste or smell
– Congestion or runny nose
-Nausea or vomiting
Patients are urged to seek emergency medical attention if they experience:
– Persistent chest pain or pressure
– Inability to wake up or stay awake
– Pale, gray or blue skin, lips or nail beds