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How can I tell the difference between an acute respiratory infection and a coronavirus?

The fall and winter period is traditionally considered a season of colds and flu. At the same time, the incidence of coronavirus infection is still at record levels, and new strains of COVID-19 are emerging.

What is ARI?

Acute respiratory viral infection (ARI) is not one disease, but a whole group of diseases caused by various viral pathogens. Acute respiratory viruses can be caused by any virus from a vast group that includes more than 200 types of microorganisms, including flu viruses, parainfluenza, rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, and other pathogens. However, regardless of the cause of the infection, a person will experience a number of similar symptoms – which is why these diseases have been grouped together.

With ARI, the upper respiratory tract is primarily affected, which includes the oral and nasal cavities, as well as the upper part of the pharynx. In this regard, the disease makes itself felt in the first place with a fizzy and dry throat, runny nose, and stuffy nose – these symptoms occur almost immediately and increase over time.

Typical symptoms of acute fever in the first days of the acute phase may be:

  • Weakness and a feeling of general brokenness;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Redness and inflammation of the throat in the area of the tonsils;
  • Perspiration and sore throat;
  • Nasal discharge;
  • Stuffy nose and runny nose;
  • Headache, especially in the forehead (associated with inflammation and congestion of the sinuses);
  • Increased body temperature (usually no higher than 37-38 °C);
  • Increased sweating, chills;
  • Increased cervical and submandibular lymph nodes.

Is coronavirus related to ARI?

Coronavirus became world famous in 2019 after the SARS-CoV-2 strain was discovered in the city of Wuhan. But it’s important to understand that the coronavirus family has been around for a very long time and has several dozen species. In humans, HCoV-HKU1, -NL63, -229E, and -OC43 coronaviruses are the most common types. Infections caused by these strains are classified as ARI and cause year-round upper respiratory tract diseases like colds and flu. Therefore, most likely, everyone at least once in his life had a coronavirus infection, though not in the sense that is invested in this disease today.

At the same time, all diseases caused by coronaviruses belong to the respiratory group, so it is the respiratory organs that are primarily affected. SARS-CoV-2 also causes respiratory infections. The disease caused by this strain is called “new coronavirus infection”, or simply COVID-19. Its distinguishing feature is its rare ability to spread very rapidly from person to person, as well as its relatively long period of the asymptomatic course. The first signs of the disease usually appear a few days after exposure to the pathogen.

At the initial stage, covid in adults manifests itself in much the same way as an ordinary acute respiratory infection, and may include the same symptoms.

At the same time, unlike most other coronavirus types, SARS-CoV-2 is noted as a dangerous strain capable of causing severe respiratory infections and severe respiratory failure in adults. Respiratory failure, that is, the reduced ability of the lungs to breathe, is a serious complication that requires hospital treatment under medical supervision and the use of powerful drugs such as rapifen or terfenadine brand name.

However, it is worth noting that the severe form of the infection does not occur in everyone: most often the disease occurs in a mild or moderate form. Elderly people and patients with chronic diseases are at increased risk of a severe course of the disease. Therefore, it is important not to neglect the recommended preventive measures, so as not to expose themselves and their loved ones to the risk of infection.

When to see a doctor?

Due to the fact that coronavirus infection is a dangerous disease with the risk of a severe course, it is recommended to seek medical help immediately at the appearance of any symptoms of acute respiratory infections. It is necessary to call a doctor at home so that a specialist can assess your condition and take material for laboratory testing for covid.

It is recommended to rest and drink as much warm fluid as possible. In addition, it is recommended not to leave the house, so as not to infect others. It is also necessary, if possible, to limit contact with the rest of the family, especially if the patient lives with elderly or chronically ill people.

During the visit, the doctor will prescribe the necessary treatment depending on the severity of the individual manifestations of the disease. In the future, the specialist will monitor your condition remotely over the phone, or during repeat visits if necessary. All patients with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 are cared for at home due to the high risk of spread of infection. 

Fortunately, in the 21st century, technology is helping a lot to find new ways to treat coronavirus and other diseases, so treatments will only get better. If you are interested in this topic, you can click here and learn more about the technology that is helping us right here, right now.


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