What are the biggest differences in symptoms between common colds, allergies, and COVID-19?
COVID is associated with loss of smell and taste, or unusual tastes that are not common in uncomplicated colds. Sinus infections can do this, but regular colds typically don’t affect smell or taste to the degree we see in COVID-19.
Allergies can really feel like a cold, down to the body aches when allergies are severe. Allergies do not produce fever and normally take many days of postnasal dripping to cause a cough, whereas colds and COVID can move to coughing swiftly.
What’s the best way to care for summer colds?
There is little difference in the way we care for summer and winter colds — drink fluids and get plenty of rest. One advantage of summer is that you can open windows to ensure that shared space is well ventilated, especially if there is a member in the household who is sick.
With the rise of the Omicron subvariants, what is important to keep in mind when you come down with what seems to be an ordinary cold or allergy symptoms?
It is important to get tested for COVID if you have cold symptoms — not because you are going to get gravely ill, but because you may inadvertently pass it along to someone who could get gravely ill.
Vaccination and boosting definitely protect people from severe COVID infection, preventing hospitalization and death. However, Omicron is highly infectious, and there is increasing evidence that while the vaccines are still proving to protect us against severe COVID, they are not as effective against stopping us from getting infected or reinfected.
Furthermore, there is some recent evidence that while Omicron is definitely milder than Delta, it is more contagious and may linger for longer, so I encourage people to stay masked for 10 to 14 days and to use home antigen tests and look for a negative test to guide them on when they can relax with masking again.