Is it coronavirus, the flu, a cold or allergies? Here’s how to tell

January 27, 2022

If the coronavirus wasn’t enough, it’s also cold and flu season. AND…if that wasn’t enough, we are also going into allergy season (it’s a lot, I know). But don’t worry, while some of the symptoms of all four are similar, each one has distinct qualities to figure out which infection you may have. Details for each are listed below:

Coronavirus

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a the latest strain of coronavirus (yes, it’s been around before despite what others may have you believe). It’s spreading worldwide and sort of like that guy or girl that you never want to talk to. Treat it like you see them from far away and you hide just so they won’t talk to you, lol.

Other strains of coronavirus have been very common and can cause only mild symptoms (like the common cold). However, some strains, like COVID-19 and its many variants, can cause severe illness.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
– Shortness of breath
– Fever (above 100 degrees)
– Dry cough
– Gradual onset (two to 14 days after onset)
– Sometimes headache
– Sometimes aches and pains
– Mild sneezing
– Sometimes fatigue, but it’s not predominate like the flu
– Diarrhea is rare

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms ranges from mild to severe. If you think you might have COVID-19, check out our section about how to get tested. If you want to go into a hospital, remember to call ahead and let them know your symptoms before you go in. They may have you go in at certain times or by yourself in an effort to protect hospital staff and other patients.

Allergies

Symptoms of seasonal allergies range from mild to severe and occur seasonally. The most common include:

– Sneezing
– Runny or stuffy nose
– Watery and itchy eyes
– Itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
– Ear congestion
– Postnasal drainage

Less common symptoms include:

– Headache
– Shortness of breath
– Wheezing
– Coughing

Since allergies can sometimes make people feel as though they’re getting sick, allergies mainly cause itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, congestion and sneezing.

A major difference between allergies and coronavirus is the presence of fever, a main symptom of coronavirus but not a feature in seasonal allergies.

Cold

While you may feel “blah” and just not like doing, when you have a cold, the symptoms are generally mild compared to more aggressive viruses like the flu. A cold can cause any or all of these symptoms:

– Runny or stuffy nose
– Cough (mild)
– Fatigue (sometimes)
– Sneezing
– Watery eyes
– Sore throat
– Headaches (rarely)
– Aches and pains

Most over the counter medications can knock out many cold symptoms within a few hours. A typical cold will last on average 7 to 10 days but can be managed with over-the-counter meds. The majority of the symptoms are actually not caused by the infection itself, but rather our body’s immune system trying get rid of it (i.e., shivering). Most cold viruses will go away if we’re patient and give our bodies time to fight them. Your immune system is the greatest defense against the common cold.

Flu

Seasonal influenza (better known as the flu) is like that ex that just won’t go away: just when you’re feeling good, he pops up and just leaves you feeling yucky (you like that analogy)? It usually affects your nose, throat, and lungs and can last from 5 to 7 days. Here are some common symptoms of the flu:

– Fever and/or chills
– Cough (usually dry)
– Fatigue
– Aches and pains
– Runny or stuffy nose (sometimes)
– Sore throat (sometimes)
– Diarrhea (sometimes in children)

Unlike for colds or coronavirus, vaccination is a good way to prevent the flu. If you received a flu shot and still get the flu, your symptoms are generally milder than if you didn’t receive the flu shot. Most people with the flu get well without medical treatment. Stay home and get plenty of rest and fluids and treat a fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Read More About: , ,