Advertisement

How do you know if you have the flu, COVID or RSV? What to know with flu season underway

The possibility of a triple threat of the flu, RSV and COVID-19 is a concern many Texans have this season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that RSV cases are increasing in the Southeastern U.S. While the RSV season begins in September or October, flu season is well underway, with flu activity often beginning to increase as winter arrives.

Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations and deaths are continuing to increase in Texas, and the CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to “protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter.” Updated COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are now available.

Do I have the flu, RSV or COVID-19?

All three are highly contagious respiratory infections caused by viruses. Symptoms of a cold, the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 may look the same. While it’s important to contact a doctor to help diagnose your symptoms, here is a comparison of common characteristics of each, per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

RSV symptoms

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Stuffy nose

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sneezing

  • Fast/short breaths

  • Flaring nostrils

  • Wheezing and grunting

  • No appetite

RSV symptoms are usually the worst on the third through fifth days and they last between one to two weeks.

Flu symptoms

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Body aches

  • Dry cough

  • Fatigue

  • Stuffy nose

  • Sore throat

Flu symptoms show up about one to four days after exposure.

Symptoms of a cold, the flu, RSV and COVID-19 may look the same.
Symptoms of a cold, the flu, RSV and COVID-19 may look the same.

COVID symptoms

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Congestion

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Sneezing

  • Vomiting/diarrhea

  • Loss of taste/smell

Coronavirus symptoms show up two days to two weeks after infection.

Cold symptoms

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Stuffy nose

  • Sore throat

  • Sneezing

  • Slightly swollen glands

How to tell the difference between the cold, flu, COVID and RSV.
How to tell the difference between the cold, flu, COVID and RSV.

How to curb “tripledemic” threat

UT Health San Antonio physicians encourage Texans to get vaccinated for both the influenza and COVID-19, wash their hands frequently, stay home when feeling sick, cover sneezes and coughs and wipe down surfaces. Washing your hands can reduce the transmission of respiratory infections by 16% to 21%.

They also recommend the flu vaccine early to the parents of children 6 months and older, which “gives the body enough time to build antibodies before the virus spreads quickly.” The CDC recommends babies under 8 months receive RSV immunization, and that older adults consider getting the new RSV vaccine to protect them from severe illness.