Is it Allergies, The Flu, Or COVID? Part 2

As we discussed in part one, fall brings more than football and changing leaves. It brings runny noses, itchy eyes, and the big question of, "Am I dealing with allergies or COVID?"

At times it can be really difficult because not everyone who contracts COVID will have severe signs and symptoms. While not every allergy sufferer will only have itchy eyes and a runny nose. Living with an autoimmune disease like lupus also makes things difficult because our symptoms and severity of symptoms may seem worse than the average person  even if we are only dealing with something like seasonal allergies

It never fails that when kids go back to school. In the fall they will be bringing home lots of germs. Especially the little kids. Because of that, and the new strain of the coronavirus, COVID-19, it is important that we all know the difference. In part one we discussed the differences between allergies and the common cold.

Now let’s take a good look at the differences between influenza and COVID-19.

Is it influenza?

Let’s start by reminding everyone that the flu vaccine will be very important for those who can take it. Seasonal influenza is active and once it starts it generally comes on in a fast and furious way. Influenza (flu) is a common respiratory infection that is caused by a virus. It mostly affects the nose, throat, and lungs and can last 5-7 days. Let’s looks at some symptoms of influenza.3

Flu symptoms

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough (usually dry and non productive)
  • Fatigue, aches and pains
  • Sore throat (sometimes)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (sometimes)
  • Diarrhea (ususally seen more in kids)

Flu treatment

It's important to rest and drink plenty of fluids, and treat a fever with Tylenol or ibuprofen as needed.

Unlike colds, allergies, or coronaviruses (not just COVID-19), the vaccine is a good way to prevent the spread of influenza. For those who get the shot and still manage to get the flu their symptoms are usually milder than in those who didn’t get the vaccine. Most people are able to stay home and treat themselves with OTC medications. But it can get serious for some and require hospital admission.

It’s important to remember that viral infections can not be treated with antibiotics. Usually, the infections just need to run their course, so it’s best to just wait and watch. That being said if the symptoms you had been dealing with get better, and then suddenly days later you feel much worse. You need to seek medical attention so they can verify that your virus hasn’t turned into something bacterial that they can treat with antibiotics.

Coronavirus or COVID-19

COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus found in 2020. A strain that had not been seen in humans in the past. What most people don’t know is that there are actually 4 other strains of the coronavirus that are VERY COMMON. Those strains usually only cause mild symptoms, much like the common cold. Sadly strains like COVID-19 have the ability to cause severe illness in certain groups of people.

These people include people of advanced age and people with underlying severe health conditions (like heart disease, lung disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes.) Those who fall into those categories seem to be at the highest risk for developing serious complications of COVID-19.

COVID symptoms

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or loss of smell
  • Diarrhea
  • Upper respiratory symptoms, such as a runny nose and sinus congestion are VERY UNCOMMON in those with COVID-19

It is important if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with COVID-19 that you look for EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS. If you or your family member develop any of the following you need to seek care immediately.1

Emergency warning signs

  • Increased trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New onset of confusion.
  • Inability to wake up or to stay awake.
  • If your face or lips turn bluish.

If you think you have been exposed or may have developed COVID-19 it is important that you get medical attention. Most offices/clinics/urgent cares/ER prefer that you call ahead so they can be prepared for you. Here is a link to the CDC coronavirus symptom self-checker.

COVID treatment

Treatment for COVID will vary by person and the severity of the infection. Like with colds, and influenza rest is important. Along with treating the symptoms like fever and body aches with Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen. If the virus progresses to a more severe case your doctors will have to determine the best course of treatment depending on your symptoms.2

The coronavirus is scary for everyone. But for those living with autoimmune conditions like lupus, they seem a little scarier. Simply because we likely don’t have the necessary immune system or immune response needed to fight off such a nasty bug. So it is very important that you do all you can to protect yourself from the virus. You’ve heard it a million and one times but washing your hands, remaining socially distant, and wearing your mask are your best bets for protecting yourself.

One last point that is very important for everyone to remember. Viral infections can NOT be treated with antibiotics. Due to the fact that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. For viruses, in most cases, they just need time to run their course. So as maddening as it can be, the best thing we can do is to sit and watch. But remember if you get better and are doing well, and then your symptoms suddenly get worse days later, you need to contact your healthcare provider.

Never start any new medication, even over-the-counter meds, without first talking with your doctor.

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