Is it an Upper Respiratory Infection or COVID-19?

By Allon Mordel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 9, 2020

An Upper Respiratory Infection (“URI”) occurs when a virus or bacteria enter your nose, mouth, or throat. That invasion causes inflammation, which leads to the runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and sore throats we have all experienced.

The vast majority of URIs are caused by viruses, such as rhinovirus, influenza, and coronavirus, (not exactly that coronavirus). COVID-19 is a specific type of coronavirus: while it enters your body the same way other URIs do, COVID-19 causes inflammation in areas of your body far beyond the upper respiratory tract. Inflammation in blood vessels causes clots, while inflammation in lungs results in breathing problems. That loss of taste and smell COVID-19 is known for is a result of nerve inflammation.

In many cases, a loss of taste and smell reported by the patient has been a marker of the COVID-19 virus, but that isn’t always true. The most accurate way to find out if you have COVID-19 is to get a test (find testing centers near you). If you’re experiencing symptoms of loss of taste and smell, limit engagement with friends and family until you receive your test results.

If you’re not sure what to do next, or want to talk through your symptoms, you can always text with a doctor now in the K Health app.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Allon Mordel, MD

Allon Mordel is the Senior Medical Director, Clinical Product at K Health. Dr. Mordel is a graduate of the University of Georgia and served as an EMT for the city and county services. He was accepted into residency at the NYU/ Bellevue Emergency Medicine Residency Program where he distinguished himself and became Chief Resident on his way to becoming an Attending Physician.