What viruses are going around?
The common cold, influenza (the flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are seasonal, meaning they’re more common at specific times of the year — though you can catch a virus anytime.
Colds are more common in late winter and early spring. The flu and RSV are common during the late fall and winter months.
While there’s no established seasonal pattern for COVID-19 yet, some health experts expect there to be more cases between late fall and early spring.
- The common cold is the most common infection of the nose, sinuses, or throat. Symptoms tend to be mild and get worse over a few days.
- The flu usually involves symptoms that are worse than a cold and come on faster. People sometimes use the term “flu” to describe a cold or stomach virus. But the flu usually doesn’t cause vomiting or diarrhea in adults.
- RSV is more common in children than adults. It usually causes mild symptoms. In some people, especially young children, it can lead to conditions that make breathing difficult, like pneumonia. Older adults may take longer to recover from RSV.
- COVID-19 affects the lungs and airways. Most people have mild symptoms, but some can become severely ill.
There are tests to find the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 viruses. Flu and RSV tests are usually only given to people who are hospitalized with severe symptoms. For most COVID-19 testing needs, home antigen tests are a quick and easy way to find out whether you have COVID-19. There’s no test for the common cold.