Covid-19 or influenza: dilemma of the day | Health - Hindustan Times
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Covid-19 or influenza: dilemma of the day

BySurbhi Kapila
Apr 13, 2023 01:35 PM IST

As H3N2 and Covid-19 present similar symptoms, one can be misconceived as the other; experts help differentiate.

Fever, fatigue and persistent cough are among the many symptoms being witnessed in people across the country in the recent past. But, the question is — is it Covid-19 or H3N2 virus that one is down with?

H3N2 and Covid-19 both may present flu-like symptoms (Shutterstock)
H3N2 and Covid-19 both may present flu-like symptoms (Shutterstock)

A subtype of influenza A, H3N2 presents symptoms similar to that of Covid-19. But, experts say the former is leading to more cases of hospitalisation at present. Covid-19 cases are also increasing at a steady pace, with 5,676 cases recorded on April 11 in India.

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“We are getting around 20-30 cases every day of people coming in with flu symptoms. Of these, most are testing positive for influenza,” says Dr AK Jhingan, senior director, Internal Medicine at BLK MAX Hospital.

Key differences

Though testing is the safest way to differentiate, a cursory understanding of the symptoms may help doctors understand whether one is suffering from influenza or Covid-19 and prescribe tests accordingly.

“Both viruses present predominantly with respiratory symptoms as well as flu-like illness, but loss of smell and taste are more common in Covid-19,” says Dr Rahul Roshan, senior consultant, Chest and Respiratory Diseases at a Delhi-based hospital.

While influenza may typically severely impact the elderly population and people with co-morbidities, Covid-19 may give rise to serious illness in people of all ages. Also, when infected with influenza, one may experience symptoms within 1-4 days, while in case of Covid-19, it may take 2-14 days for the symptoms to show.

“Covid-19 mutates faster and attacks the lungs early, whereas influenza may affect the lungs a little later,” says Dr Sunny Kalra, senior consultant, Respiratory Medicine at a Delhi-based hospital.

Coughing is a common symptom. But, it is more prevalent in case of influenza and can leave the patient feeling tired. In case of Covid-19, experts say, cough is comparatively milder.

“H3N2 mainly causes respiratory illness and starts with high fever, sneezing, dry cough and throat pain. On the other hand, Covid-19 may present symptoms such as bodyache, headache, irritability, lethargy and progress later to mild cough, abdominal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and loss of taste, besides fever and cough,” says Dr Sanjeev Dutta, HOD and senior consultant, Paediatrics at Marengo Asia Hospitals.

Eat right to energise

A wholesome meal is one that is rich in proteins, healthy fats and a moderate quantity of good carbs, besides good vitamin intake. “Regular intake of vitamin C in the form of one lemon a day and prescribed supplements must be taken throughout the year, not just when one catches an infection,” says nutritionist Tripti Tandon. She also suggests opting for fruits over juice: “A glass of juice is made using two-three fruits, increasing the consumption of natural sugar. That can lead to diabetes, if overdone. On the other hand, if you eat a fruit, even a small quantity is filing and the fibre intake is an added advantage.” Some other must-adds to the diet are coconut water, nuts, legumes and sprouts.

Practice Yoga to power through

These cleansing rituals and breathing exercises can help attain physical and mental well-being:

Jal Neti: Cleanses the nasal passage

Vaman Dhauti: Cleanses the digestive track

Anulom Vilom: Increases the oxygen level in the blood, helps attain physical and mental well-being, strengthens immunity

Ujjayi Pranayama: Helps get rid of phlegm in the throat

Surya Bhedi Pranayama: It helps activate the right nostril, which in turn aids in fighting cold, cough and sinus-related problems

Bhramari Pranayama: It helps relieve tension and anxiety

Inputs by Gaurav Chauhan, yoga expert and instructor

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