COVID-19 and Acute Respiratory Infections: What Are the Differences?

It has been noted that COVID-19 and acute respiratory infections have some of the same symptoms. Let’s compare them to understand what the differences are.

Dr. Ely

General practitioner

The virus cycle

COVID-19 was initially so aggressive that it displaced the usual seasonal viruses and flu. Social distancing, border closures, careful hygiene, and masking regimes also contributed to this. This fall, however, flu and other colds have returned with renewed vigor. Some experts believe that what is happening may be a sign that COVID-19, under the onslaught of emerging natural immunity, vaccinations, and social restrictions, is finally moving into the category of seasonal viruses.

Recognize and disarm

During a pandemic, people want to understand how the disease is transmitted. Even if the disease is a mild form, it is very possible to infect those around you. It is not always possible to pass a test immediately, and their reliability is sometimes questionable. So what should you do? Let's compare the symptoms.

Since COVID-19 is an acute respiratory viral infection, the signs at first glance are similar — fever, runny nose, headache, scratchy throat, and overall weakness. And yet, COVID-19 has a pronounced clinical picture.

You likely have an acute respiratory infection if you have the following:

  • Body temperature of 98.6–100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Runny nose with profuse nosebleeds, tears
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Mild weakness, feeling faint

You likely have COVID-19 if:

  • You have an uncharacteristic cold
  • Body temperature of 98.6–102.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Internal nasal congestion without mucus discharge
  • Noise in the ears, stuffy ears
  • Muscle pain and aching joints
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea
  • Extreme weakness and dizziness, with difficulty walking
  • Tachycardia with a slight fever, fluctuating blood pressure
  • Lack of sense of smell, change in taste on the third or fifth day
  • Chest pain, heavy breathing, shortness of breath, cough
  • Improvement does not come even after 5 days, but can run in waves: the first 3–4 days a slight fever, then improvement and a repeated increase in temperature, often up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plan of action

If you have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, you should immediately isolate yourself from your loved ones and not leave your home. If symptoms worsen, seek medical help immediately. It is especially important as symptoms of the delta strain of COVID-19 can appear even more quickly, and the strain can be more deadly than the original.

29 October 2021

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