Is it COVID-19, RSV or allergies?
By Kyle Judkins, DO, Family Medicine and Sports Medicine Physician
With school back in session and fall just around the corner, it’s likely we will see an uptick in illnesses. However, the presence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is beginning earlier than normal, particularly in children. As we continue to deal with widespread COVID-19 transmission and fall allergy season, this is just one more added piece of stress for families when someone gets sick.
But figuring out what you or your child has can be tricky since a lot of these illnesses present with the same symptoms.
I’ll walk you through each illness and give you some helpful information about when to go to the doctor.
Signs of RSV
RSV most frequently occurs in young children. It can cause a runny nose, coughing, and wheezing. Most people recover from RSV with home care. Most kids will experience an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old.
Most people with RSV get better after one or two weeks, but some people -- especially young children, experience more serious symptoms like pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or another breathing problem called bronchiolitis (inflammation of the lungs). When this happens, oxygen and hospital care may be needed.
Symptoms of RSV usually develop four to six days after infection. They can include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, wheezing and a decrease in appetite. Young infants may experience symptoms like trouble breathing, decreased activity and irritability.
Make sure you connect with your child’s pediatrician or family medicine provider before giving them cold medications. Most cases of RSV are mild can be managed at home with plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers (like ibuprofen and acetaminophen—never give aspirin to kids).
COVID-19 best confirmed by testing
There is a wide range of symptoms for COVID-19 and not everyone has the same experience. The most common are new loss of smell or taste, fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, congestion or runny nose.
It’s important to get tested for COVID-19 if you have a combination of these symptoms, so that you can isolate and not spread the virus to others.
Allergies should not cause a fever
Fall allergies can definitely be a nuisance, however, they rarely cause a fever. In most cases you will have a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, dark undereye circles, congestion, and a dry, tickling cough.
If these symptoms seem to affect you at the same time each year, it’s likely that it’s fall allergies.Your health care provider may recommend you see an allergist for testing.
Thankfully, allergies can usually be managed with decongestants to relieve stuffiness, antihistamines to stop itching and sneezing, and nasal sprays to manage inflammation in your sinuses. Ask your provider which medications are right for you, particularly if you have high blood pressure.
Prevent the spread of viruses
It bears repeating that all of us can prevent the spread of these viruses with simple steps like washing your hands regularly with soap and water (especially before eating and touching your face and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose), cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and
covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve (not your hands).
It’s very important that if you have any symptoms, to avoid close contact with others. Finally, follow all CDC mask guidelines for your location and activity.
At this point, the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated. There are safe and effective vaccine options for both COVID-19 the flu. The data shows us that there is no problem getting the flu shot at or near the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines save lives and keep people from getting sicker.
When to see a health care provider
If you or your child have trouble breathing, chest pain, new confusion, inability to wake up or stay away, or pale, blue or gray skin, call 911 immediately.
If in doubt about whether your symptoms could be from COVID-19, it is best to go get tested. Because symptoms for many of these illnesses are similar, Pardee has made it easy to diagnose which virus you have. All of our Urgent Care locations are using a test that differentiates between RSV, COVID and the Flu. With just a few minutes turnaround time for the test results, we can get you on the correct treatment plan depending on which sickness you have.