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COVID-19, ALLERGIES, COMMON COLD AND THE FLU: HOW TO TELL THE SYMPTOMS APART

Mersad Alimoradi 25 Oct 2020
COVID-19, ALLERGIES, COMMON COLD AND THE FLU: HOW TO TELL THE SYMPTOMS APART

Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

‘Tis the season again!... The flu season that is. The flu season is back this year, but with a kick. The COVID-19 pandemic is still going strong this winter, and with allergies, common cold, and The Flu coming into the scene, people are bound to confuse the symptoms of these very different conditions. Sneezing, fever, muscle pain, and fatigue can all overlap, yet there are some distinct features that can help you know when you need to quarantine yourself or get tested for the novel coronavirus.

The Flu (influenza) and COVID-19 can both cause fever, fatigue, and cough, which makes them very hard to tell apart. On the other hand, allergies are less likely to produce these symptoms, and people who have them usually have a runny nose, sneezing, and itching. We’ll try to break down the symptoms of each condition in this article to help you better understand the difference between these conditions, but first, here’s a detailed infographic comparing the symptoms of COVID-19, allergies, common cold, and The Flu:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue (Less likely)
  • Body aches (Less likely)
  • Mild cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches (Less likely)

As you can tell, a lot of symptoms of the common cold and COVID-19 overlap. However, compared to COVID-19, fever, cough, and fatigue are less pronounced with the common cold. Symptomatic treatment is usually enough to treat the common cold and the symptoms should resolve in a few days on their own.

The Flu

The Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and it usually causes an illness that’s more severe than the common cold, yet less severe than corona. Influenza can affect the nose, throat, and lungs, causing:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea in children (sometimes)

A flu infection usually lasts 5 to 7 days. In some cases, hospital admission may be warranted, and you might receive antiviral medication. However, in most cases, the flu resolves on its own with supportive treatment alone. The symptoms of influenza resemble those of COVID-19 the most, and it’s likely that doctors will not be able to know which one you have without testing you.

The good news is, The Flu vaccine is widely available and it’s highly recommended that you get it. It will help prevent infection and hence make it less likely that you will develop symptoms to be confused with corona.

Allergies

Allergies can be either seasonal (usually in the spring) or go all year round, like if you’re allergic to dust. They can become especially annoying with their symptoms:

  • Itching in your eyes and face
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue (less likely)
  • Headache (less likely)

Pollen, which fills the air in spring, is the classic cause of seasonal allergies. If you have allergic symptoms that are not related to changing seasons, you might be allergic to dust or another unidentified floater in the air. This tends to be a chronic problem that persists over weeks or months. Regardless of the allergen, when you get exposed to it, your immune system reacts and causes the symptoms. Anti-allergic medications can be very efficient in treating your symptoms.

This year the stakes are high. With the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to stay on high alert. If you experience any of the symptoms above, you need to distance yourself from others and seek medical consultation. There’s no need to panic if you are coming down with a cough or fever since there’s a good chance it’s not corona. However, you will need to take extreme precautions until a medical professional confirms it. Precautions are of utmost importance this season. Wash your hands, avoid social gatherings, wear a mask, and stay safe!

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About the Author:
Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.

Sources:

  • https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-similarities-and-differences-covid-19-and-influenza
  • https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/is-it-a-cold--the-flu--allergies-or-covid-19-coronavirus-how-to-tell-the-difference.h00-159385101.html
  • https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/symptoms/
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