Are cold-like symptoms lasting for weeks normal?

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 3 months ago

As the flu season coincides with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it can be challenging to differentiate between various respiratory illnesses. Cold-like symptoms can be caused by COVID-19, the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or the common cold. According to Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious diseases specialist, it can be challenging to distinguish between these illnesses without testing, as they all present similarly and can be mistaken for each other or the common cold.

While cold symptoms are generally milder and develop slowly, flu symptoms are typically more severe and include additional symptoms like chills, sweat, and fever. RSV may cause a runny nose, cough, reduced appetite, irritability, lack of energy, and difficulty breathing, especially in young children. Loss of taste or smell is more common with COVID-19. Unlike RSV and colds, the flu and COVID-19 may also cause gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Cold symptoms typically take one to three days to develop and can last up to 10 days. Dr. Jay W. Lee, a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians, advises that ample rest and hydration are crucial for the body to fight off a cold or other infections. Congestion and coughing may persist even after other symptoms have cleared up.

If symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is advisable to see a doctor to determine if there is an underlying issue or if treatment is necessary. Persistent high fever, worsening cough leading to breathing difficulties, or symptoms in individuals with chronic health conditions should prompt an immediate visit to a family doctor.

It is important to note that antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections such as colds or the flu. Taking antibiotics for viral infections can even have negative consequences, as it can increase the risk of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections, such as strep throat or urinary tract infections.

For specific treatments, antiviral medications can help manage symptoms and shorten the duration of illness for the flu and COVID-19 if taken within the first few days of symptom onset. However, antiviral medications are not typically used for RSV infections unless hospitalization is required due to breathing difficulties or dehydration.

Over-the-counter products like pseudoephedrine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide relief for congestion, pain, and fever associated with cold-like symptoms. Gargling with warm salt water, staying hydrated, resting, and practicing good hand hygiene are also recommended to ease symptoms and prevent the spread of illness.

In summary, with the overlap of respiratory illnesses during flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be challenging to differentiate between various illnesses. Proper rest, hydration, and over-the-counter remedies can help manage symptoms, but it is important to seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen. Antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections, and precautions such as handwashing and vaccination are essential for preventing the spread of illness.


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