Is it the flu, cold or corona?

If you have a snot nose, you will probably immediately ask yourself in times of corona: do I have it? And how do you know if it is the flu, a cold, or corona? Recent research has shown that there seems to be a fixed order of the first Covid-19 symptoms.

But first: what exactly are the differences? You can get the flu from an influenza virus, which can change every year. A cold can be caused by several other viruses such as the rhinovirus, the RS virus and also the coronavirus. The coronavirus causes the lung disease Covid-19. All three diseases generally (initially) show cold symptoms, which can be confusing.

Flu or Covid-19?

According to research by the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are (high) fever and cough. Other possible symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and coughing up phlegm.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) analyzed 57,024 records of Chinese corona patients to learn more about the symptoms. Their results show that Covid-19 usually starts with a fever, followed by a cough and muscle aches. Then come symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, and finally diarrhoea. There were only a few patients in whom the disease started with abdominal complaints.

The symptoms of the flu and Covid-19 are very similar. According to the researchers at the USC, there is a difference: with the flu you usually first start to cough and only then do you get the fever. That could be an important clue to distinguish flu in the early stages of Covid-19.

Incubation period

Another clue is the incubation period. If you have the flu, you can quickly feel sick within one to four days. Covid-19 is building much more slowly. The incubation period of the coronavirus is between two and fourteen days. It usually takes five to six days before you get symptoms. With a cold, the symptoms appear within one to three days.

Common cold

If you only cough or have a runny nose and do not show any other symptoms, it is probably not because of the coronavirus. Then you probably ‘just’ have a cold. Other symptoms of a cold include sore throat, headache, and sometimes muscle aches. Adults almost never suffer from a fever with a cold, while this can occur in children.

In practice, it can be difficult to recognize the (order of) symptoms. Therefore: do you have any complaints? Get tested and stay at home (with your family) until the results are known. The result then determines whether you can go outside again.

Please note: check the website of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) for all current information about the coronavirus

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