Variable Symptoms of Cold, Flu, Allergies, and COVID-19

As the pandemic is creating a dreadful situation worldwide, many of us are wrestling with the fear of experiencing the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Every nose drip or unexpected cough brings in a moment of terror in your mind. There are a lot of unknown facts surrounding this coronavirus pandemic. We all know that COVID-19 has the potential to deteriorate the health of those with a weak immune system. Typically, the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to that of a cold or flu.

That doesn’t mean that people experiencing a seasonal allergy or cold and flu will have coronavirus. Despite all the similarities, there are verified medical data that can help to differentiate between the typical symptoms of COVID-19 from similar health conditions. Today’s article will highlight the critical symptoms of COVID-19. Furthermore, we will also take a look at the symptoms of cold, flu, and allergies.


What are the symptoms of cold and flu?

According to the CDC, in many parts of the country, the flu season is in the swing. During this time, even doctors have a hard time to differentiate the mild cases of COVID-19 wit that of cold and flu. This is because the symptoms of cold and flu overlap that of the novel coronavirus. But some of the guidelines set by the CDC may help to differentiate the symptoms of flu from that of COVID-19. The typical symptoms of cold and flu include –

  • Fever or chills (1)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Muscle ache and headache
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

What happens during allergies?

Allergies can occur due to several reasons that may include  –

  • Grass
  • Pollen grains
  • Budding trees

Usually, during an allergic attack, you might experience a runny nose, itchy eyes, and even cough. Skin rashes are also common symptoms in some people. However, one way to differentiate allergies from COVID-19 is that allergies do not come with a high-grade fever. Fever is always suggestive of an underlying infection. (2)

What are the differentiating symptoms of COVID-19?

Although most of the symptoms of COVID-19 overlap with that of flu, two significant symptoms don’t typically present with other illnesses. Thes symptoms are-

  • High-grade fever
  • Shortness of breath – where you might feel an extreme lack of oxygen in your lungs. (3)

The WHO has suggested a list of additional symptoms that may be suggestive of COVID-19 –

  • Sputum production
  • Dry cough and fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Muscle ache and headache

Some coronavirus infected people have shown a lack of taste and smell sensation. These symptoms have been identified as unique to COVID-19, which usually does not present with other illnesses.

What can you do to self-analyze your health condition?

When in doubt, ask yourself, the following three questions –

When did your symptoms begin?

Typically, the symptoms of seasonal allergies last for a few days or a week. Additionally, an episode of cold or flu may start suddenly. However, flu caused by a non-viral origin acts faster on the body systems as compared to that caused by the novel coronavirus. Moreover, the symptoms of COVID-19 may begin with a fever and last for 14 days or more.

What symptoms are you experiencing?

If you are experiencing runny nose wit itchy eyes, it is probably an allergic reaction. Additionally, aching muscles could be suggestive of a cold or flu. However, the symptoms of COVID-19 typically involve fever and shortness of breath, along with the symptoms mentioned above. (4)

Are your symptoms worsening?

Typically, it takes a week or two for flu or COVID-19 to heal. Usually, both of these conditions present with mild symptoms during this stage. However, if you feel that your health is worsening, it may probably create a possibility of pneumonia wit either the flu or coronavirus. If your breathing starts to deteriorate and you experience high fever that persists for days, seek immediate medical attention. Moreover, get yourself tested for COVID-19.

What can you do if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?

If there is even a slight possibility that you might have COVID-19, it is best to follow the guideline given below –

  • Rest and hydrate yourself – currently, every COVID-19 case is being treated as a standard cold or flu. Therefore, you can take over-the-counter medicines to treat cold or get a doctor’s prescription to start your palliative treatment at home.

While you do that, it is necessary to take plenty of rest. Maintain a proper diet and hydrate yourself to boost your immunity against the virus.

  • Self-isolation – if you are living with your family, maintain a distance from all the members of the family as much as possible. Self-isolation is crucial in protecting your family from the disease spread. Typically, 14 days is ideal for self-isolation. (5)

Stay in a specific room; do not allow anyone to sleep near you. Also, use your bathroom and refrain others from using it until you feel better.

  • Wear a face mask – if you are experiencing cough, it is advised to wear a mask, especially when you are in the are room with others in your house. The face mask helps to prevent disease transmission.
  • Avoid sharing your items such as utensils, cups, towels, and bedding. Wash these items frequently.
  • Stay in contact with your doctor periodically to keep a check on your symptoms.
  • If you feel that your symptoms have not gone down even after 14 days of self-isolation, or have started to worsen, seek immediate medical help.

Take away message

The novel coronavirus usually causes upper respiratory tract infection leading to symptoms that may mimic the symptoms of cold or flu. During the pandemic, it is essential to differentiate between a common cold or COVID-19 so that you can take appropriate care. Typically, flu presents with cough, fever, and muscle ache. On the other hand, allergic reactions are associated with a runny nose and itchy eyes. Comparing the symptoms mentioned here, COVID-19 does overlap some of the symptoms related to allergies and flu.

However, there are three typical symptoms that you must look out for to confirm COVID-19. Symptoms such as high-grade fever, shortness of breath, and lack of taste or smell are unique to the novel coronavirus. If you experience any such symptoms, it is essential to take precautionary measures of self-isolation for at least 14 days. Make sure you maintain distance from your family members and monitor your symptoms regularly. If you feel the symptoms are worsening, seek emergency medical attention


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