Common Cold vs RSV: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

February 18, 2024

The common cold and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) share many similarities as respiratory illnesses. While they both impact the respiratory system, including the nose, throat and lungs, they possess distinct characteristics. In this comparison of the common cold and RSV, we aim to explore their differences so you can better identify the underlying cause of your symptoms. We’ll explore their causes, symptoms and treatment methods.

For same-day general illness treatment, visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care Cortez. Our board-certified medical providers are here seven days a week to provide exceptional urgent care for all patients in the Cortez, CO area and surrounding communities. Just walk-in today!

Understanding the Common Cold

Let's go into details about the common cold—a condition that primarily affects the nose and throat. Attributed to a virus known as rhinovirus, the common cold is highly contagious. It spreads easily through respiratory droplets when individuals come into close contact with one another.

Typical symptoms of a common cold include:

  • A runny or congested nose
  • A scratchy throat
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Mild feelings of fatigue

Additionally, a common cold might manifest as a slight fever and headache. When dealing with a cold, treatments typically focus on alleviating symptoms and allowing the body's natural healing process to take over. Here are some steps you can follow to manage a cold effectively:

  • Make sure to keep yourself warm
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Take time to rest and allow your body to recuperate
  • Consider using safe over the counter cold medications
  • Try home remedies like gargling with salt water if you have a sore throat

Understanding Respiratory Syncytial Virus

RSV is a viral infection caused by the respiratory syncytial virus which is also where it gets its name. RSV is highly contagious and can also spread through respiratory droplets and close contact with other people with RSV.

The symptoms of RSV infection can range from mild to severe, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Nasal congestion

There is no specific cure for RSV infection. However, its symptoms can be treated with various supportive care remedies. This includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms and reduce fever.

When to Seek Medical Attention

For healthy individuals, both colds and RSV can be treated at home for the most part. However, there are times when urgent medical care may be required for proper treatment. Certain individuals, including young children, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions, may be at a higher risk for developing potential complications from these conditions. It’s important to monitor your symptoms closely and consult a healthcare provider if your condition worsens or persists.

For colds, seek treatment if:

1. Symptoms worsen or persist for more than 10 days.

2. You have difficulty breathing or experience chest pain.

3. You have a high fever (above 101°F or 38.3°C).

4. You develop severe headache or sinus pain.

5. You have a weakened immune system or other underlying health conditions.

For an RSV infection, contact a healthcare provider if:

1. Symptoms worsen rapidly or become severe.

2. There are dehydration symptoms like dry mouth, decreased urine output, or lethargy.

3.  There is difficulty breathing or rapid and labored breathing.

4. There is bluish discoloration on the skin or lips.

5. You have a weakened immune system or other underlying health conditions.

Get Same-Day Treatment at AFC Urgent Care Cortez

If you believe you have developed a cold or an RSV infection, come visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care Cortez. Our urgent care center provides both preventive and immediate treatment for a wide range of common conditions. Simply walk-in! We’re open seven days a week and appointments are not required to be seen by a provider. If you have any additional questions about our treatment options, or the services we provide, please contact our team directly at (970) 516-5500.

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