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Why you have COVID-19 symptoms but you don’t have COVID-19

Doctors said new respiratory illnesses are hitting people across the country

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Two pedestrians — one with a mask and the other without — pass each other in Salt Lake City.

Two pedestrians — one with a mask and the other without — pass each other in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 14, 2021. Doctors across the country are concerned that people are getting sick with respiratory illnesses — even though it isn’t necessarily COVID-19.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Doctors across the country are concerned that people are getting sick with respiratory illnesses — even though it isn’t necessarily COVID-19.

Cold symptoms emerge among unvaccinated

Doctors said they are seeing people who have COVID-19 symptoms but are actually just suffering from colds. Specifically, these colds have popped up in areas where the dangerous delta variant is spreading fast, according to NBC News.

  • Upper respiratory issues — like congestion, a runny nose and headaches — appear to be at the center of these colds.

Doctors told NBC News their patients have not been vaccinated for COVID-19. They said they are unsure why unvaccinated people are showing common cold symptoms, but it might be linked to the delta variant.

  • “COVID can present in different ways,” said Dr. Russell Vinik, chief medical operations officer at the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City, according to NBC News. “If you think you have a cold, you’re infectious, and whether that’s COVID or a cold, you should consider getting a test.”

Respiratory viruses continue to rise

Doctors have also noticed an increase in RSV, which is a respiratory virus, among children and the elderly, according to KTRK. Symptoms for RSV can include a runny nose, decreased appetite and cough.

  • “Starting in March, we started to see an increase in all of the non-COVID viruses, respiratory viruses, like RSV, parainfluenza, some of the seasonal cold coronaviruses,” said Dr. Wesley Long, the medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist, according to KTRK.

In February, there were few cases of RSV making the rounds across the country, likely due to face masks, as the Deseret News reported. The same was the case for the flu, which wasn’t as prevalent this year because of face masks.

Long said it might be hard to determine if the sickness is COVID-19 or not, so it’s best to get tested.

“It’s a little bit tough to tell the difference at first blush in between these other viruses and COVID. So if you do get sick, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated, you definitely want to get a COVID test to make sure that it’s not COVID-19,” he said.