Coronavirus, the flu, the common cold and even seasonal allergies can cause some of the same symptoms. For instance, you may have a cough with most of these ailments. But other symptoms, like a fever, are more likely to occur with only COVID-19 and the flu.
To help you tell the difference between these conditions, here’s a roundup of their most common symptoms. It may ease your mind and help you and your family make the best health care choices.
An Important Note Before You Read
Don’t use this blog as a substitute for a medical diagnosis. If you or someone you know doesn’t feel well, talk with a doctor right away. You can easily have a video visit with one of our online physicians through the AdventHealth app. Here, you can also arrange an urgent care telehealth visit.
When You May Have COVID-19 Symptoms
If you’re wondering whether you or a loved one has COVID-19, keep these three symptoms in mind: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. These are the main symptoms that people develop when they have the virus.
These symptoms develop about two to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus, and they typically last a few days to a week.
The World Health Organization has reported other symptoms — such as fatigue, body aches and sore throat — in some people infected with coronavirus. However, these aren’t as common.
If you think you or a loved one may have coronavirus, contact your physician right away. Use the AdventHealth app to make a telehealth (also called telemedicine) video visit with your doctor online.
Your physician can tell you how best to proceed. Make sure to tell the doctor if you are older than age 65 or have any underlying health conditions that may put you at risk for severe symptoms. These include:
- Chronic lung disease or asthma
- Heart disease or other heart problems
- Liver disease
- Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- HIV and other diseases causing a weakened immune system
- Severe obesity (a body mass index at or over 40)
If you have mild symptoms, your physician will likely advise you to stay at home and at least 6 feet away from other people. Plenty of rest and fluids can help you feel better. Here are more steps to take if you are diagnosed with coronavirus.
When You May Have Symptoms of the Flu
Like COVID-19, the flu is caused by a virus that spreads from person to person. It can infect the nose, throat and, at times, the lungs. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe. Unlike coronavirus, there is a vaccine to protect you against the flu and it is your best flu defense. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one key difference between the flu and other ailments — including coronavirus — is the sudden onset of symptoms. You may feel fine one day and then miserable the next. What’s more, symptoms often affect more than your respiratory tract and may include:
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
If a physician suspects you have the flu, stay home and away from others, as you would do with other viral illnesses. In some cases, your physician may prescribe antiviral medicines to help treat the flu. The CDC recommends these other care tips, too.
On a positive note, data from the CDC shows that as of September, flu activity is low.
Do You Have Cold Symptoms or Coronavirus?
Unlike coronavirus and the flu, the common cold usually does not cause a fever. And it often affects only the upper respiratory tract. If you have a cold, you are most likely to have these symptoms:
- Mild body aches
- Sore throat
A cold is usually less severe than the flu. And the symptoms tend to develop gradually. They may last about seven to 10 days.
Certain remedies, like staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest, can help ease your symptoms. So, too, may over-the-counter pain and cold medicines. Contact your physician if your cold lasts longer than 10 days or if your symptoms suddenly worsen.
Is It Seasonal Allergies or Coronavirus?
In the case of seasonal allergies, it’s important to note that you won’t have a fever. You are also not likely to have a cough, body aches or chest discomfort. The main symptoms of seasonal allergies — namely, hay fever — are:
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Runny or stuffy nose
Another key difference between seasonal allergies and other ailments like the common cold is how long symptoms last. With seasonal allergies, you may have symptoms for up to six weeks. It depends on how long outdoor allergens, like pollen from trees, grasses and other plants, are circulating in the air near you.
You can help ease your seasonal allergies by avoiding contact with allergens. For instance, limit your time outside when pollen counts are high. Over-the-counter medicines and nasal sprays may help, too.
What to Do if You Are Concerned About Symptoms
The best approach during this time is to talk with your physician if you or a loved one doesn’t feel well and you are concerned about the symptoms. You can easily have a video visit with one of our doctors through the AdventHealth app.
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, you should avoid the emergency room at your local hospital, except in cases of an emergency. While many people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, emergency care is sometimes needed. Call 911 if you or a loved one develops these severe coronavirus symptoms:
- Bluish lips or face
- Confusion or inability to stay awake
- Ongoing chest pain or pressure
- Trouble breathing
When you call 911, tell the operator that you have or think you may have coronavirus. Otherwise, with worsening symptoms that don’t seem life-threatening, the best thing to do is call your physician first. With a phone call or telehealth video visit, your physician can advise you on what to do next.
We’re Here to Help
We’re here for you and your family through this pandemic and the cold and flu season. Take charge of your health and prepare by getting your flu shot at any AdventHealth Centra Care.