What’s worse, influenza or coinfection? Sometimes you might be sick with the flu and another infection at the same time, but how do you know which one to treat first? Coronavirus and influenza are both respiratory infections, so it can be hard to know what’s causing your symptoms when they appear together. This guide to coinfection vs influenza will help you figure out which symptoms are related to your flu and which ones are coming from something else.
Influenza vs. Coinfection
Influenza and coinfection are two diseases that often occur together. Influenza, also known as flu, is a viral respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Coinfection involves two pathogens two kinds of infectious organisms that each needs a different name (think: pneumonia). Coronavirus occurs in 15% to 20% of influenza cases and can be transmitted from person to person through contact with bodily fluids. Coinfections are frequently severe and can cause death in elderly patients who are already weakened by an existing illness.
If you find yourself battling both Influenza and coronavirus, your odds of getting better aren’t great. To help avoid both Influenza and coinfection, practice good hygiene such as frequent hand washing, sneezing into tissues or your arm instead of your hands, covering coughs and avoiding people who are sick. Stay home if you’re sick; otherwise, keep a distance from others while they’re sick so they don’t pass their virus on to you.
While there’s no vaccine for coronavirus yet, it’s recommended that healthy adults get vaccinated against influenza every year so their immune systems can fight off multiple strains. Be sure to ask your doctor about additional precautions for preventing infection if you have chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease. And remember: regardless of which pathogen has infected you influenza or corona-virus rest is key for recovery!
Influenza Symptoms and Treatments
Influenza, also known as the flu, causes fever, cough and muscle aches. These symptoms usually appear within 1 to 4 days after you’re exposed to influenza viruses. Some people might also have vomiting and diarrhoea which can lead to dehydration. Severe cases of Influenza can require hospitalization.
Although Influenza infections are not as common as those of other respiratory viruses such as RSV and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), they remain a common cause of illness each year in both children and adults in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. The flu vaccine offers protection against three types of influenza virus (called Type A): two subtypes called H1N1 and H3N2; plus one B type.
Who Gets Influenza?
Adults and children over 6 months old can get influenza. People at high risk for complications from influenza include people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurologic disorders (such as Alzheimer’s Disease), endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus), liver disorders such as cirrhosis, or immunosuppression due to diseases such as HIV infection or cancers such as leukaemia.
Most healthy adults do not need to be vaccinated against influenza. However, vaccination is recommended for health care workers who have close contact with patients likely to develop complications from influenza.
Typical Diagnosis of Influenza
Influenza presents itself in many different ways, but the most common are upper respiratory tract infections and lower respiratory tract infections. However, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication for other conditions (i.e., sinusitis) if he believes it’s caused by influenza.
Influenza typically occurs during the winter months, which raises some important questions about vaccination timing. To avoid missing a diagnosis of influenza, it’s best to visit your physician early on in an illness so he can test you for influenza using rapid diagnostic tests that detect antibodies to various flu strains.
Rapid diagnostic tests can also be used to monitor whether treatment is working after 48 hours of use because they’re sensitive enough to pick up when there’s a drop-off in flu activity even before symptoms disappear entirely.
Ways to Prevent, Treat, & Survive the Flu
You should always be prepared to treat influenza symptoms. Carry over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and cough drops to help reduce fevers and relieve symptoms. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth while sick and avoid contact with people who are sick.
If you’re sick with the flu: Stay home from work or school. Rest until you begin to feel better; usually, that means until your fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever reducer—you should check with your doctor about what’s appropriate for children and babies. If you have questions about how to prevent, treat, or survive influenza, talk with your doctor.
They can recommend ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones against both types of flu viruses. Flu vaccines aren’t 100% effective, but they can significantly lower your chances of getting sick. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated each year.
There are several different kinds of flu vaccines available—some made in eggs and some made in cell cultures—but they all contain similar ingredients that protect against influenza virus infection.
Other Diseases Affected by the Flu Virus
A cold virus called the rhinovirus is the most common cause of the common cold. An infection can make symptoms worse by dehydrating your body and making your mucous membranes produce more mucus. Your nasal passages swell, causing a stuffy nose, and other areas may also swell, such as around your eyes. Runny noses are a symptom of the flu virus.
The typical cold lasts for about one to two weeks, but a mild case can last up to 10 days and a severe case up to six weeks. On average, it takes 21 days from infection with the rhinovirus until full recovery. Coinfection occurs when someone has both influenza and another disease at the same time. Coinfections occur in people who have weakened immune systems, which means they’re unable to fight off infections that would be easily controlled in healthy individuals.
Examples include older adults living in nursing homes; pregnant women; those who have HIV/AIDS; cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment; organ transplant recipients on immunosuppressive drugs; and those undergoing long-term steroid therapy (such as prednisone).
Coronaviruses include many viruses that infect humans, including HCoV-229E—the leading cause of respiratory infections in young children under age 5 years old. It’s a common complication in infants born prematurely at less than 37 weeks gestation due to premature birth.
How Can I Avoid The Flu This Season?
The flu season typically peaks in January and February, but it can continue until May. That’s why it’s so important to get your flu shot as soon as possible. If you missed getting vaccinated, stay home if you’re sick to avoid infecting other people.
During a healthy winter season, only about 5% of those who are immunized will get influenza, compared with 20% of those who do not receive a vaccination. In some seasons when many people get infected at once and there isn’t enough vaccine available, nearly everyone may be infected even if they were vaccinated – and over 80% of them will become ill with complications such as pneumonia. So, what should you do if you suspect that you have contracted an infection? Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body fight off illness.
Drink plenty of fluids: Fluids help thin mucus and ease congestion. To help keep fluids down, try drinking ginger tea or chicken soup (with salt). Over-the-counter medications: Consult with your doctor before taking any medication for pain relief or fever reduction. Use a humidifier: Humidifiers add moisture to dry indoor air and reduce nasal irritation caused by colds and allergies. Wash hands frequently: Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent spreading germs from person to person; use warm water and soap for 20 seconds every time you wash your hands.
Coughing, Fatigue, Sore Throat
What does it mean when you have all three at once? If you’re feeling sick, these symptoms may be a sign of a cold, and that’s what you think. However, it’s possible to be suffering from more than one illness at once. Coinfections can occur when an individual has two different viruses in their body, most commonly occurring when both influenza and coronavirus are present.
While they might not appear to have similar effects on those infected with them, they actually do. Let’s take a look at how coinfection occurs and how it differs from having just one virus active in your system.
Coughing: It may seem obvious, but before you can understand if your sickness is a coinfection or influenza, you have to be able to identify which one it is. The common cold and influenzas share many of the same symptoms, but coughs aren’t usually a symptom of a cold. If you’re experiencing an extended period of coughing that doesn’t go away with over-the-counter medication, it could be either a cold or influenza—or both. If you are coughing up phlegm and feeling shortness of breath, however, that sounds more like influenza than a cold.
Fatigue: A flu infection isn’t solely characterized by fever, which can make it hard to determine whether you’re suffering from a cold or influenza. The latter of these two conditions often causes fatigue that is worse than a typical cold and may even last longer. If you have been experiencing severe fatigue for several days, it might be time to visit your doctor. Flu symptoms usually begin within 1-3 days after exposure, but sometimes they take up to 7-10 days to appear. Symptoms typically include high fever (over 100 degrees), sore throat, dry cough, muscle aches/headaches/fatigue, and occasionally nausea/vomiting. Coinfections with other viruses such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) may also cause additional symptoms like diarrhoea or vomiting.
Sore Throat: Whether you call it canker sore or cold sore, a viral infection of your throat will most likely leave you down for days. While many believe that canker sores are only caused by stress, it turns out they are usually caused by a herpes virus called herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1). This virus also causes fever blisters on your lips and mouth area. Once you have been infected with HSV-1, you have it for life and may experience an outbreak every few months or so. In fact, studies show that about three-quarters of all adults in America carry HSV-1 and don’t even know it!
The classic symptoms of influenza, right? It’s common to mistake these flu-like symptoms for coinfection when they’re actually caused by something else altogether. Coinfections are infections caused by two different organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Coronavirus is a type of virus that can cause flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle aches, runny nose and coughing.
The good news is that coronavirus isn’t always fatal like other types of viruses. In rare cases, it can develop into pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which could be deadly. If you think you have both influenza and another infection, talk with your doctor about getting tested. Depending on what your tests show, you may need treatment for both conditions.
If your symptoms aren’t severe enough to warrant a trip to urgent care or an ER visit, call your doctor’s office instead. Your doctor may want to see you in person so he/she can decide if treatment is necessary or if you should wait until morning when there will likely be fewer people in the waiting room. A few things that are NOT signs of coinfection: yellow eyes/skin, bloody stools/vomit/urine/sputum, severe abdominal pain (that gets worse over time.
Dizziness: In influenza, dizziness may be due to fever. If a child has a high fever accompanied by severe fatigue and dizziness, it may be caused by a secondary infection of the parainfluenza virus. A bacterial infection of Streptococcus pneumoniae or Haemophilus influenza can cause similar symptoms. In influenza, these symptoms usually improve with time as children recover. If you have any suspicion that your child has an underlying bacterial infection, talk to your paediatrician about treating them with antibiotics.
Fever: In general, a fever, whether caused by flu or other infections, can result in confusion, irritability and lethargy. Children with a fever might not eat well and may sleep more than usual. For that reason, it’s crucial for parents to take their children’s temperatures regularly throughout the cold and flu season. It’s also important to monitor your child’s condition: If he appears less active than normal, seems confused or looks weak and pale, he needs to see a doctor.
Headache: Many people believe that headaches are a common symptom of flu, but they’re actually caused by a coinfection. The two most common coinfections that cause severe headaches during flu season are influenza type B and coronavirus. They are both highly contagious viruses—and their symptoms are similar to those of influenza. Watch out for other symptoms, like fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat and fatigue. If you experience these alongside your headache, see your doctor for treatment of both ailments!
Muscle Aches: Flu-like symptoms involving muscles and joints are a common sign of coinfection. Muscle aches can be caused by a variety of viruses, so when you notice muscle aches you should make sure to see your physician, who can run blood tests to determine what type of flu virus (or virus(es)) might be present. It’s important to note that not all coinfections produce muscle aches; in fact, most don’t.
Nausea/Vomiting: If you’re experiencing nausea or vomiting with your influenza, then it could be due to flu complications, such as dehydration and sinusitis. As a general rule of thumb, if you experience these symptoms for more than 24 hours without relief, it’s time to seek medical attention. Of course, if you have a fever over 100 degrees F, then you should probably see a doctor as soon as possible.
General Tips for Not Getting Sick
Coinfections with influenza are relatively common. That said, they are not as bad as being just infected with flu itself. It makes sense to prevent both flu and coinfection by getting vaccinated against either one of them (and by washing your hands frequently).
In some cases, if you already have symptoms of flu when you are exposed to a secondary infection, then your immune system will be downregulated and it can make things worse; so in that case, get yourself treated right away! The CDC recommends seeing a doctor for antiviral treatment within 48 hours of symptom onset. If you wait longer than 48 hours, studies show that antivirals might not work as well. So remember: wash your hands often and don’t delay treatment after exposure to an illness. Read more…