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Flu, strep throat … and now COVID-19

Fever, cough, sore throat?

In normal years many of us would self-medicate with a dose of cough syrup and weather through our daily routine. But 2020 is anything but a normal year. In addition to the traditional culprits like the common cold, influenza and strep throat, this year we also have COVID-19, which has already infected millions of Americans.

Since the illnesses share many of the same common symptoms, it is critical for anyone who is sick to stay home and to isolate as much as possible. The only way to know for sure what you are infected with is to get tested. Testing for strep throat, influenza A and B, and COVID-19 is available at our drive-through testing site with a physician’s order. To obtain a physician’s order, call your primary care provider or one of our clinics.

With all the misinformation floating around online, it can be difficult to know where to go to find reliable information you can use to help keep you and your family safe. Our Online Clinic features videos, easy to read articles and other content created by leading medical experts. The information below on COVID-19, influenza and strep throat comes directly from our Online Clinic.

The virus can cause fever, cough and trouble breathing. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia and make it hard to breathe without help. It can cause death.

This virus spreads person-to-person through droplets from coughing and sneezing. It can also spread when you are close to someone who is infected. And it can spread when you touch something that has the virus on it, such as a doorknob or a tabletop.

The virus is most often diagnosed with a test that uses a swab of fluid from the nose or throat or sometimes uses sputum from the lungs.

Most people who get sick from the virus can recover at home. Your doctor may have you take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for a fever. Treatment in the hospital for more serious cases includes support, such as help with breathing.

Learn more about COVID-19

Influenza (flu)
Influenza (flu) is a viral infection. People often use the term “flu” to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus, that has symptoms like the flu. But the real flu is different. Flu symptoms are usually worse than a cold and last longer. The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first 3 or 4 days. But it can take 1 to 2 weeks to get completely better.

Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter. Because symptoms may not start for a couple of days, you may pass the flu to someone before you know you have it. You can help prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine every year. It’s best to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available.

Most people can treat flu symptoms at home. Home treatment includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking medicine to lower your fever. But some people need to go to the hospital for treatment. They may have severe symptoms or get pneumonia. Or the flu infection may make an existing health problem worse.

Learn more about the flu

Strep throat
Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and the tonsils. The throat gets irritated and inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat.

Although some people are quick to think that any painful sore throat is strep, sore throats are usually caused by a viral infection and not strep bacteria. A sore throat caused by a virus can be just as painful as strep throat. But if you have cold symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose, you probably do not have strep throat.

Doctors usually treat strep throat with antibiotics. Antibiotics shorten the time you are able to spread the disease to others (are contagious) and lower the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. Antibiotics also may help you feel better faster.

Learn more about strep throat