What feels like COVID-19, but isn't? Respiratory viruses make a return

·2 min read

Adam’s Journal

I spent the better part of last week at home with what I would describe as prototypical COVID symptoms: sore throat, congestion, achy head and fever. Yet each time I tested (several times at home, plus twice via PCR) over the four worst days of my illness, I came back negative. What gives?

Dr. McEver Prescribes

Often, the simplest explanation proves the best one. In your case, the straightforward answer would be that you did not have COVID-19.

Historically, colds, flu and other respiratory viruses circulated at the highest rates during the winter months, when people spent the most time indoors in close quarters. There’s also some evidence that cold temperatures leave respiratory passages more susceptible to infection.

However, as with so many other aspects of our lives, the pandemic seems to have flipped traditional viral trends on their heads.

As we all return — or almost return — to our pre-pandemic lives, we’ve discarded most of the precautions that protected us not only from the coronavirus but also from so many other respiratory bugs. As a result, many of those illnesses are resurfacing at an unexpected time.

Think of it as Christmas in June. Except instead of presents, we’re getting hacking coughs, red noses and fevers.

The symptoms you describe are, indeed, consistent with COVID, but they’re also consistent with numerous other common cold and respiratory viruses. Add in myalgia (body aches), and they also sound a lot like the flu.

Is it possible that you had a case of COVID-19 that managed to evade the many tests you took? Sure. As has been said countless times throughout the pandemic, we’re still learning about this virus and how it behaves.

Still, with the number of times you tested and the fact that you used not just home kits but more sensitive PCR testing, the chances that those were all false negatives are slim.

Whether we eventually return to the “old” cycle of colds and flu in the winter months remains to be seen. But for the foreseeable future, I expect to hear many more stories like yours.

McEver, a physician-scientist, is vice president of research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Cohen is a marathoner and OMRF’s senior vice president and general counsel. Submit your health questions for them to contact@omrf.org.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Return to pre-pandemic life has brought a return of respiratory bugs