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Is your cough a symptom of a cold, the flu or COVID?

Local health experts say with such similar symptoms, it can be hard to tell which virus you have.

SPOKANE, Wash. — With COVID cases continuing to pop up throughout our area and flu season in full swing many people are getting sick right now. 

Dr. Gretchen LaSalle with the MultiCare Rockport Clinic says since many symptoms of COVID, Flu and even the common cold are so similar, it can be difficult for someone who's not a medical professional to tell the difference.

"It's really hard to tell right now, whether our sniffles or our scratchy throat, are COVID or flu or a regular sort of run of the mill cold," Dr. LaSalle said.

Dr. LaSalle says their clinic is seeing several patients this time of year and not just for COVID.

"We're seeing a lot more sort of upper respiratory and some stomach bug type infections, kind of making their way back into the community this year," Dr. LaSalle said. "Compared to years pre-COVID, I would say it's relatively similar to a little bit better. But we're definitely seeing coughs colds, and COVID, of course, and a little bit of flu in the community as well."

Symptoms of cold, flu and COVID-19 can be pretty similar and can even vary from person to person.

"It's very hard to know the difference between cold flu and COVID," Dr. LaSalle said. "The one symptom I would say that I guess it's fairly unique to COVID is that loss of smell and taste. That's pretty unusual for other viral illnesses."

However, Dr. Lasalle says there are some symptoms that mean you should get medical attention right away.

"The things that we worry about that might make you want to seek kind of that next level of care would be if you are starting to get more short of breath, chest pain, if you have a fever that you can't control with over the counter medications, having trouble keeping fluids down, getting dehydrated or weak," said Dr. LaSalle.

If you are sick, Dr. LaSalle says stay home and away from other people. She also suggests using a combination of over the counter medications and home remedies to alleviate symptoms.

"There's a variety of different over the counter cough and cold remedies that are helpful. Honey is actually a pretty good cough suppressant, we don't want to use that in children under the age of one. But over the age of one, honey is a pretty good cough suppressant," said Dr. LaSalle. "Lemon is helpful and really, you know, there's a variety of different products that the pharmacist can kind of direct you to, that can be helpful for those rather mild cough and cold symptoms to keep you comfortable."

Dr. LaSalle also recommends that everyone get their COVID vaccines and their flu vaccines as well.