With the current state of affairs, the very words “respiratory illness” are likely to cause panic when uttered. This is understandable, and the global pandemic is not something to be taken lightly. However, because the media is so saturated with reports on the virus, it’s easy to forget that there are other common winter respiratory illnesses. This leads people to mistake their symptoms for COVID-19.
This article is not meant to take the place of a doctor’s guidance, but reviewing these common symptoms can help set one’s heart and mind at ease.
There is a reason that rhinovirus, aka the common cold, is called as such. It is the most common respiratory illness in the winter and the least alarming. Its symptoms are typically mild, involving a few days of fatigue, a cough, runny nose, and possibly a mild fever. Contrary to popular belief, colds don’t strike in the winter because of colder temperatures. Instead, the lack of immune-boosting sunlight and the amount of time spent inside with recirculating air makes these colds more common.
Whereas the common cold is an infection targeting the nose and throat, influenza targets the lungs specifically, making this condition even more severe. The flu is characterized by fever, body and headaches, a severe cough, and possibly stomach problems. The brunt of these symptoms typically lasts a few days, but the effects may linger for weeks afterward.
Although the cold and flu aren’t typically serious, they can potentially lead to more serious illnesses if not cared for. Bronchitis is one such illness. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Both are characterized by an infection in the lungs’ bronchial tubes. This produces a fever, shortness of breath, and a deep rattling cough that produces mucus. Acute bronchitis usually lasts a few weeks, whereas chronic bronchitis continues to come back.
Pneumonia, the most serious illness on our list, is usually a complication of other less severe illnesses. In mild cases, it can be treated at home like any illness. In more serious cases, it can cause patients to be placed on a ventilator mode. The infection targets the lungs and causes the air sacs to fill with fluid, causing chest pain, a cough, and shortness of breath for a week or more. It is also accompanied by high fever, chills, body aches, and sweats.