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Is it RSV, Flu or COVID-19?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) , Influenza (Flu), and COVID-19 are all contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of RSV, flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference, so it is important to get tested and confirm a diagnosis. We have vaccines for the flu and COVID19, call 818-763-8836 for an appointment.

Symptoms of the Flu

Influenza is different from a cold, and usually comes on suddenly. Flu can cause mild to severe illness.

People feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, (more common in children)

Symptoms of COVID-19

According to the CDC, “People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.”

Possible symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms of RSV

Adults* and children usually show these symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

*Sometimes adults can show no symptoms or have few signs of infection.

Infants less than 6 months may only show:

  • Irritability
  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pauses in breathing 10 seconds or longer


RSV infections usually go away in 1-2 weeks.

To relieve symptoms:

  • Manage fever and pain with fever reducers and pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Never give aspirin to children. Talk to your doctor before giving nonprescription medicines.


People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3-8 days. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To prevent and not spread RSV, follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Keep your hands off your face
  • Avoid close contact with sick people e.g. kissing a child with RSV
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Stay home when you are sick