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COVID-19, the flu or a cold? | How to tell the difference as pandemic continues into cold and flu season

"All of these upper respiratory infections have overlap. There is no easy way to tell this apart."

ST. LOUIS — If you're feeling under the weather, you might be thinking you may have COVID-19 or the flu.

But we're in the midst of a cold season, which means a variety of viruses are circulating right now.

"This is a normal time of year for all sorts of other viruses," said Dr. Jastin Antisdel with SSM Health SLU Hospital.

There are some specifics that indicate that you may have COVID-19.

"COVID-19 causes oxygen levels to go down, it causes more pneumonia. It can cause loss of taste and smell," said Dr. Troy Dinkel, the Chief Medical Officer at Total Access Urgent Care.

For the flu, he said people will commonly have more elevated temperatures.

But other viruses may have the same exact symptoms with chills or fever.

"All of these upper respiratory infections have overlap. There is no easy way to tell this apart," Dr. Dinkel said.

A way to narrow it down? Dr. Antisdel said you can get tested.

If you're negative for the flu and COVID-19, you may have a cold.

"The cold takes its normal course. But this year, we just have to be more careful about that," Dr. Antisdel said.

At Total Access Urgent Care, the staff is working around the clock to help sick patients.

Pre-pandemic, staff would see about 1,200 patients a day. Dr. Dinkel said the peak was last February with 1,496 patients a day. But right now, they are averaging about 2,000 patients daily.

It's an influx of people with a variety of sicknesses.

Dr. Troy Dinkel had some helpful tips.

"Getting sleep, exercising, eating nutritious foods, all very common sense and they are absolutely helpful to the maintenance of your body's overall function and that includes our immune function," he said.

And the mitigation practices already in place are reducing the number of people getting sick right now.

"Handwashing, wear your mask, that's the main way that these things are transmitted. We’re down 98% in the influenza this year and it's very similar in our normal upper respiratory illnesses," Dr. Antisdel said.

If you decide to go to a Total Access Urgent Care location, there may be wait times.

You can call ahead and they'll put you on a waitlist.

Through a link, you can see where you are in line and it will alert you when to come in.