Pittsburgh doctor explains different symptoms associated with COVID-19, flu, cold

PITTSBURGH — There are three viruses circulating in the area during the holidays: COVID-19, the flu and the common cold.

It’s hard to tell the difference, because their symptoms are so similar and vague.

Channel 11 spoke with a doctor about how people can ring in the new year safely.

“If you’re not feeling good, the last thing you want to do is give someone a New Year’s gift of spreading the virus you gave them,” said Dr. Brian Lamb, a primary care doctor at Allegheny Health Network.

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We are just days away from the start of 2022. Meanwhile, omicron, a new COVID-19 variant, is surging. Flu season is picking up and colds are going around.

Lamb said the viruses are overlapping right now.

“All three of them are considered upper respiratory viruses, so they all affect the same organs: affect the nose, the throat and the lungs,” said Lamb.

Lamb said cough, congestion, sore throat and headache are common symptoms of each virus. However, the difference is their severity.

“COVID is the most lethal of the three,” said Lamb. “We’ve seen it has the highest death rate, so we expect people, especially with the previous versions, delta and original version of COVID-19, they intend to get sick very fast and tend to get sicker.”

Lamb said the omicron variant is less severe than the other COVID-19 variants. He said omicron is like a bad cold, but that it comes on much faster; its incubation period is just two to five days.

The common cold has milder symptoms, like runny nose and sneezing. As for the flu, people experience more body aches and fevers.

Since all three viruses are very similar, Lamb suggests getting tested for COVID-19. If you’re having trouble getting a test, he recommends staying away from others and waring masks in the meantime, so you don’t spread the virus.

“One of the most important things we tell people, we understand it is frustrating waiting to get your test, so if you are having symptoms, please isolate,” said Lamb. “If you can, don’t go to work, don’t be around people. We know this is difficult because we have one more holiday to get through this winter, but please think about changing your plans.”

Lamb said the best way to minimize your risk of getting sick is getting the COVID-19 vaccine and booster as well as your flu shot.