There’s a reason for the season. Flu season, that is. While it’s possible to catch the flu year-round, fall and winter are when cases spike in America. The falling temperatures force us to spend more time inside (typically in close quarters with others) and allow viruses to survive on surfaces for longer periods. Meanwhile, the shorter days and reduced sunshine contribute to drops in our vitamin D levels, which impacts our immune system. The combination of all these things creates a perfect storm in which it’s easier for us to sick.
Historically, the common cold and influenza have been the biggest threats to our health. But now, we must continue to protect ourselves and those around us from COVID-19.
To better help everyone prevent the spread of these illnesses, it’s important to understand the differences between them.
What are the differences in symptoms between the common cold, influenza, and COVID-19?
Common cold symptoms:
- Symptoms typically appear one to three (1-3) days after infection.
- Symptoms are less severe than influenza or COVID.
- Mucous may change in color and consistency.
- Feeling generally unwell or having less energy.
- Symptoms typically develop one to four (1-4) days after infection.
- Most individuals will recover without complications but some can develop pneumonia or sinus infections.
- Symptoms typically develop five (5) days after being infected but can appear as soon as two (2) days or as late as 14 days after infection.
- May include a change in, or loss of, your sense of taste and smell.
- A person with COIVD-19 may be contagious for a longer period of time.
- Additional complications such as blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs, or brain can occur.
How to protect yourself
Luckily, the steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you from getting sick or spreading your germs are very similar. Washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and wearing a mask will significantly reduce the spread of illness.
Both influenza and COVID-19 have vaccines available to help prevent infection. The vaccines are not a cure and they do not guarantee that you won’t become infected. They help your body develop natural defenses that reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu or COVID-19 and typically reduce the severity of any symptoms if you do become infected.
It’s important to remember that even if you don’t feel sick or display any symptoms, you could still spread the germs or viruses that cause the common cold, influenza, or COVID-19 to others. So, be sure to practice proper hygiene habits every day to help keep yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors happy and healthy!