As summer approaches and people begin to enjoy outdoor activities and social gatherings, it's essential to be aware of the various illnesses that can impact our health. Two common ailments that can cause similar symptoms are the summer cold and COVID-19. While both share some resemblances, understanding the key differences between them is crucial in order to respond appropriately and maintain public health.
One of the primary challenges in distinguishing between a summer cold and COVID-19 lies in their overlapping symptoms. Both can manifest as a cough, sore throat, runny or congested nose, fatigue, and headache. However, some notable differences can help us differentiate between the two.
Fever: Fever is a prominent symptom of COVID-19 but is uncommon in cases of a summer cold. An elevated body temperature (above 100.4°F or 38°C) is a strong indicator of COVID-19 infection.
Loss of taste and smell: Anosmia, or loss of smell, and ageusia, or loss of taste, are frequently associated with COVID-19. These symptoms are rare in cases of a summer cold.
Respiratory distress: COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. While a summer cold might cause mild respiratory discomfort, it is typically less severe than that caused by COVID-19.
Gastrointestinal issues: COVID-19 has been linked to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms are not commonly observed in individuals with a summer cold.
Duration and Progression
Another aspect that can help differentiate between a summer cold and COVID-19 is the duration and progression of symptoms.
Onset and duration: A summer cold typically has a gradual onset and may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. In contrast, COVID-19 symptoms may develop more rapidly, and the illness often persists for an extended period, with severe cases requiring medical attention.
Progression of symptoms: COVID-19 symptoms often worsen over time, especially in individuals with pre-existing health conditions or weakened immune systems. The progression of a summer cold, on the other hand, is usually milder and less aggressive.
Testing and Diagnosis
To accurately differentiate between a summer cold and COVID-19, diagnostic testing is essential.
COVID-19 testing: The gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19 is the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which detects the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Rapid antigen tests are also available and provide quicker results, but they may have a slightly lower accuracy rate.
There are no specific test for summer cold: Since the common cold is caused by various viruses, there is no specific test for its diagnosis. It is typically diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical examination.