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Is it a cold, the flu, COVID-19 or allergies? Local infectious disease experts explain

Flu season is here, COVID still rocking hospitals
Posted at 7:58 AM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 08:39:14-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Cold and flu season is upon us and for another year in a row COVID-19 is added to that. All of that added with allergies going around is causing a lot of stress for people who just aren't sure which infection they may have.

And it's no secret that hospitals have been strained ever since COVID-19 began.

"It's burning out our staff. It's impacting us a lot," said Dr. Andrew Jameson, division chief of infectious diseases at Mercy Health.,

READ MORE: 'Nurses are in trouble.' Health experts say Michigan nurses are overwhelmed, walking away from field

Now that other respiratory infections are popping up on top of COVID-19 the stress and workload are piling up for healthcare workers. Usually the patients themselves aren't even sure what infection they might have, fearing it's usually COVID-19.

"This is the fun part of the show where yes, you can have the symptoms that all cross, be it flu or allergy, COVID," Spectrum Health Division Chief of Family Medicine Dr. Kristopher Brenner said.

Many of the symptoms for the flu, a common cold, COVID-19 and even allergies may be interchangeable. It's important to be aware of how long it took for symptoms to develop. If you get very sick overnight or over a day it may be the flu. COVID-19 and even colds may take longer to develop. There are also some stand out symptoms like losing your taste and smell, which is a common symptom of COVID-19.

Common symptoms

Because of mask wearing and stringent hand washing last year, there weren't too many flu cases. This year, things are expected to be very different.

"We are anticipating a much, much bigger influx of respiratory viruses in general this year than we had last year," Dr. Jameson said.

The uncertainty of exactly what people are sick with is increasing COVID-19 testing at clinics. But testing is something healthcare providers say is vital, no matter how busy the clinics get.

"The threshold for testing needs to be really low. Still, we don't really know we have until we get tested," Dr. Jameson said.

Testing, masking and vaccinations for both the flu and COVID-19 are what's going to keep clinics and hospitals running smoothly this cold and flu season.

READ MORE: Is it safe to get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine together? CDC says yes