The U.S. is in the grip of a "tripledemic" — a triple threat of RSV, flu, and COVID-19. Here's a guide to spotting the difference between the symptoms of the three infections.

"While it's impossible to know for sure which one of these viruses you have without testing, there are some distinctive symptoms for each virus," said Dr. David Hoffman, a pediatric hospitalist at MarinHealth Medical Center, as reported by ABC7.


The flu generally comes on with sudden symptoms.

"After 44 years as an infectious disease nurse practitioner, one of the things I would ask people trying to figure out how sick they are is about the onset," Mobeen Rathore, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases said. "It's like one minute a child is playing or an adult is working – and the next minute ... it's that feeling like you got hit by a Mack truck."

In contrast, other viral infections come on gradually. "People will say they feel like they're coming down with something, they have chills, a sore throat, or feel 'blah,'" Rathore added.

One of the hallmarks of flu is a very high fever up to 103 to 104 Fahrenheit. Flu comes with other viral illness-related common symptoms like sore throat, nausea, body aches, vomiting, or even diarrhea.


In the case of COVID-19, "some people become very ill, while others have very mild symptoms, and others show no symptoms at all. While most people develop symptoms within the first week after exposure, symptoms can occur from two up to 14 days after exposure to the virus," Dr. Hoffman said, as per the outlet.

However, there is one characteristic that sets this infection apart. "Unlike other viruses, COVID-19 can affect other areas of the body outside of the lungs and, in some instances, cause long-term effects," Dr. Hoffman added.

Loss of taste and smell is another peculiar symptom of COVID-19. It can also be noted that vomiting and diarrhea are more common with this infection.


RSV may have been caught by many adults, which, at the time, they would have mistaken for the common cold.

"If you think back to that cold that you got that just wouldn't go away, you kept having congestion and perhaps a cough that lasted longer than usual, there's a decent chance that that was RSV. And again, symptoms of flu can include fever, chills, headache, runny nose, or congestion, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sore throat," Dr. Hoffman explained.

A cardinal symptom of RSV observed in children is wheezing. It is a high-pitched sound, that comes with each exhalation.

The doctor warned that there are many unknown threats besides these three viruses that are present in the population.

"Everyone's talking about RSV, but we do see other viruses in the community as well, like metapneumovirus, which can cause bronchitis or significant respiratory infection, or viral pneumonia. There are thousands of viruses that we don't have tests for so we don't know exactly which virus it is, but we're definitely seeing more of many different respiratory infections," Dr. Hoffman commented.

Prior exposure to common cold coronaviruses might save people from COVID-19 sweetlouise, Pixabay