If I have fever, when do I get tested?

With the latest bout of the pandemic resurgent in many cities and with the monsoon as an incubator for various microbes, how do we differentiate between a regular flu, seasonal allergy and Covid-19? Most importantly, when should we get tested?

Says Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi: “The Covid-19 virus mutates to attack as many new hosts as possible and it attacks the vulnerable population. Hence, during the first wave, the most vulnerable to Covid were mostly the elderly with comorbidities. By the time the second and third waves happened, most of the elderly had antibodies after contracting the infection and had been vaccinated. So now the virus has moved to the second most vulnerable group, or middling adults. Once this wave passes, a large section of this population would also be immune.”

So the only way to get immunity from this virus is in the form of natural antibodies after contracting the infection or getting vaccinated. There is no quick way to get rid of the virus except live with and protect our vulnerabilities as much as possible.

Symptoms to watch out for

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According to Dr Chatterjee, this time, those infected are displaying different symptoms that make it difficult to establish a definitive, uniform pattern. “Symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, body aches and high grade fever are the commonly noticed symptoms in this round,” he adds, most of which overlap with symptoms of seasonal and stomach flu.

When to get tested? 

Understand your fever patterns. “The major difference between a normal and Covid-induced fever is that the first subsides in a couple of days and is generally low grade in nature with intermittent remissions. In Covid-19, the fever is consistently high grade which can last up to three to four days. For confirming Covid, self-testing can be useful with a Rapid Antigen Kit. However, these days, the symptoms can also be confused with seasonal flu or heat stroke, as both manifest similar symptoms. So if fever persists, get yourself tested. It is advisable to consult a doctor instead of indulging in self-medication. Also, if you are in the high-risk category, it is advisable to get tested earlier,” says Dr Chatterjee.

Seasonal flu vs Covid

“Seasonal flu rarely involves the lower respiratory tract or lungs. Though the latest bout of Covid caused by the Omicron variants affect the upper respiratory systems, it can rapidly escalate to cause respiratory distress and decrease in oxygen levels. So keep a watch. Nevertheless there are many differences between seasonal flu and Covid. Seasonal flu has a pattern of happening during season changes and is most common during winter. Covid can happen anytime through the year. The infectivity of Covid is much higher than any other viral pneumonia. The seasonal flu manifests through usually mild symptoms except for patients with pre-existing respiratory illness like asthma, COPD or ILD. Covid has a higher morbidity index. Covid can lead to multi-organ damage and long-term symptoms, regular flu doesn’t affect other systems as intensely. Unlike Covid, flu can be detected clinically. Management of flu is mainly symptomatic with paracetamol and anti-allergic drugs. Since Covid manifestations vary from person to person, it is absolutely important to follow the doctor’s guidelines,” says Dr Neetu Jain, senior consultant, pulmonology, critical care, sleep medicine, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.

Practices People Should Adopt

While we still live with Covid, the preventive measures don’t change.

• Self-isolation is recommended if you have fever, until the possibility of Covid is ruled out.

• Do not compromise yourself with the relaxed mask discipline. “Please wear them at all times in a virus-prone area or an indoor environment where transmission is easier,” says Dr Chatterjee.

• Maintain Covid appropriate behaviour at all times, be it wearing masks, washing and sanitising hands, maintaining social distancing and isolating oneself if facing any Covid-related symptom.

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