Is sneezing a symptom of COVID-19?
Allergy-sufferers have been asking whether their recent symptoms are caused by the chilly environment, a cold, the flu or the coronavirus.
Experts say the only real way to know the answer is to test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms assuming they are related to COVID.
“If you think it’s a cold, if you think it’s the flu, it’s probably COVID,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference late last month. “We need you to stay home if you’re not feeling well.”
Arwady said that now, as omicron cases continue to sprad, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID aren’t necessarily getting “seriously ill and having fevers for days and difficult breathing,” but are instead experiencing a more mild illness.
“They may only feel like they have a cold,” she said. “That’s good because they’re not getting seriously sick, they’re not threatening the healthcare system, but it’s certainly of some concern because they do have the potential to transmit to others.”
Doctors have reported some cases of what’s being called “flurona,” or a dual infection of both COVID and the flu at the same time. But according to Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine for Cook County Health, there’s no clear way to tell the difference between COVID or flu – and no real way to tell if you have both.
“We’re making most of those diagnoses clinically,” he said.
In hospital settings, testing “for not just COVID but for the whole respiratory panel” are increasing across the Chicago area, Loafman said, but testing for such cases is only done when a patient is sick enough to need medical care.
While the symptoms are nearly identical, there can be subtle differences, Loafman said.
“One thing is the fever with flu, with influenza, tends to be a little higher, but that’s subtle,” he said. “So 101, 102 [degree] fever can happen with COVID, the fever can get a little higher with flu but it can also be low-grade. So other than that, you know, coughs, headaches, stuffy nose… congestion, some shortness of breath – those are all very, very common for both flu and COVID and I think for most of us, we wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference.”
Sore throat continues to be a symptom reported, particularly in mild breakthrough infections, Arwady said during a Facebook Live last week.
“Especially in people who we’re seeing these more mild breakthrough infections, we are definitely seeing sore throat be a predictor in that group,” Arwady said.
She repeated earlier calls for people who have any flu- or cold-like symptoms to assume they have COVID “until proven otherwise.”
“Even if it’s a sore throat, no matter what it is,” she said. “I’ve told my own staff this, it’s what I do myself… if you are sick, even a little bit sick, stay home. More true than ever right now because sick, even a little bit sick, until proven otherwise with a test – that’s COVID. That’s how we treat it, that’s how you should treat it.”
Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization…