How to differentiate the symptoms of flu, colds and Covid-19

The cold is approaching and with it the respiratory diseases of autumn and winter, such as flu and colds, which will coexist this year with Covid-19 making it even more difficult to differentiate them. Although experts point out that it is foreseeable that the mask will reduce the expansion of these pathologies compared to previous years, the ventilation necessary to stop the coronavirus could take its toll. Although it can be very difficult to distinguish your symptoms at the beginning of these three processes, there are certain keys that can facilitate the diagnosisAccording to Dr. José Daniel Alcázar Ramírez, head of Pulmonology at Hospital Quirónsalud Málaga (@quironsalud). There are also increasingly effective tools to improve diagnosis such as Plataforma LumiraDx, which makes it possible to detect several diseases from a single sample.

Symptoms of each pathology

It is important to observe the following symptoms to try to distinguish between a flu, a cold or Covid-19, because most are not specific for any of these conditions:

  • High fever It usually occurs with Covid-19 and the flu. On the other hand, fever is not a very frequent symptom in colds.
  • Tiredness, or severe asthenia, it is associated with Covid-19 and the flu, but not with a cold.
  • Breathing difficulties They are more common in Covid-19 than in the flu, although this symptom can also appear. In colds, these complications do not usually appear. It is important to be attentive, above all, to the cough and the feeling of suffocation, which are the signs that generate the greatest alarm, and that are not usually detected in a flu, and even less in a cold. So they are relevant to identifying Covid-19.
  • At the start of Covid-19, the symptoms appear gradually, while the flu begins abruptly, that is, one day you feel fine and the next day you have a very high fever.
  • The incubation period for Covid-19 it is around two weeks, and for flu it is 3-4 days.
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion are the prominent symptoms in colds.

How to act?

Maintenance therapy is usually indicated to treat flu, colds, and Covid-19. Mild symptoms, such as a runny nose or tiredness, can be alleviated in a conventional way, with maintenance medications, and avoid going to the emergency room.

Of course, in case of suspecting that it is Covid-19, with significant signals such as shortness of breath or a fever of more than 4 days, then you should go to the emergency room. In this way, the necessary tests will be carried out for the diagnosis and, if applicable, pneumonia can be ruled out, for which we can recommend hospitalization.

Tools to improve diagnosis

In order to make a more accurate and earlier diagnosis, entities such as Chiron prevention have incorporated the Plataforma LumiraDx. A device that until now had only been used by SAMUR in Spain, capable of detect several diseases simultaneously. The taking is done with a nasal swab. It is deposited on a test strip with 4 channels and inserted into the machine that detects proteins of the virus nucleocapsid by means of immunoflorescence.

“It is especially interesting detection of COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously through a single sample, since they are two diseases that will coexist among us for the next few months and that present similar symptoms especially in the initial phase of the disease “, says Juan Pedro Portell, Director of the Health Area of ​​Quirónprevention​ (@quironPREV).

chiron health prevention covid test coronavirus

Results in a few minutes

According to its promoters, this device also improves the detection times of Covid-19 compared to other tests. “Lumira Dx represents an important advance in the diagnosis of COVID-19, since through a single device the different types of samples, antigens and serological samples can be combined, thus making a complete infection determination in as little as 12 minutes, if the test to be analyzed is antigen, 7 minutes, if it is an antibody determination, and a maximum of 20 minutes if Ag and Ab tests are requested “, explains Dr. Portell.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, Quirónprevention has carried out more than 550,000 Covid tests and, in the words of the company’s Director of Occupational Health, Juan Pedro Portell, “LumiraDx arrives in Spain possibly as the most effective tool for the massive diagnosis of Covid-19, with a sensitivity of 100% for contagion days 0-3, 98.60% for days 4-7 and 97.6% for days between 8-12 “, he clarifies, compared to the results offered the rapid antigen tests that are being used in the market. ”

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