- The symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, a cold, and allergies are all distinct.
- Fever, fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of COVID-19.
- Sneezing, wheezing, and coughing are some of the most persistent symptoms of allergies.
- The flu has many of the same symptoms as COVID-19, such as fever and body pains, although it seldom causes shortness of breath.
It’s not always the case that you have COVID-19 if you have a runny nose or itchy eyes. There’s a good possibility you have COVID-19 if you have a cough, exhaustion, fever, shortness of breath, or a loss of taste or smell. However, it’s also possible that you’re suffering from the seasonal flu. As a result, a decent rule of thumb is to be tested for COVID-19 if you’re in question.
“Not every symptom is created equal.” While you may think you have coronavirus, it might just be seasonal allergies or influenza. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season in 2020-21 was exceptionally mild. This might be a result of COVID-19 prevention measures. Last flu season, flu hospitalizations were at an all-time low, but COVID-19 instances surged, suggesting that if you experience flu-like symptoms, there’s a possibility you had COVID-19.
“Many cold, flu and COVID-19 symptoms are identical, and it may be difficult to tell the difference,” said Ramzi Yacoub, PharmD, chief pharmacist officer of the prescription savings service Single Care. “Viruses cause them all, but various viruses cause different illnesses.”
“However, one significant difference between the three is that [COVID-19] causes difficulty breathing as a symptom.” “Difficulty breathing is a common symptom of COVID-19, which shows up before pneumonia.” “Shortness of breath is generally not affected by the flu or a cold unless it has progressed to pneumonia, in which case you should also see your healthcare physician,” Yacoub said.
Dr. Subinoy Das, Tivic Health’s senior medical officer, noted that when a fever develops, the common cold seldom causes shortness of breath. “While influenza is quite similar to COVID-19, the shortness of breath is usually not as severe,” says the author. According to Das, COVID-19 causes difficulty breathing, which develops 5 to 10 days after the first sign of fever.
Officials from the Department of Health are concerned about new coronavirus strains. In the United States, there are many versions. The Omicron variety, which was first discovered in late November, has caused anxiety, although occurrences thus far seem to be minor. More than 90% of new infections are still caused by the Delta strain.
In March 2021, the Delta variety was discovered for the first time in the United States. Delta looks to be more contagious than the others. Although vaccinated persons are still largely protected against it, it creates especially severe symptoms.
The Delta variation, which has resulted in younger persons contracting COVID-19 infections than prior variants, may also induce symptoms that are distinct from other versions. Dr. Inci Yildirim, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and a vaccinologist at Yale Medicine in Connecticut. Kids are presenting with symptoms associated with the common cold and other upper respiratory infections, such as headache, runny nose, sinus congestion, and sore throat. These symptoms are more often linked with the common cold and were not previously related to COVID-19.
However, Yildirim warned that these results may reflect COVID-19’s varied influence on younger individuals rather than implying that the Delta variation produces different symptoms. COVID-19 may also infect people who have been vaccinated, albeit the chance of infection is much lower than in unprotected people. According to the CDC, unvaccinated persons are 5 times more likely than vaccinated people to get COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die from it.
When vaccinated persons get COVID-19, their symptoms are usually less severe than those of unvaccinated people who contract the virus. Headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and persistent cough are the top symptoms for vaccinated persons who have COVID, according to the Zoe COVID Study, which records symptoms of the illness among people in the United Kingdom.
Other “typical” COVID-19 symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fever, and loss of smell, were less prevalent in those who had been vaccinated. According to a study from the Zoe COVID Study, “generally, we noticed identical symptoms of COVID-19 being reported overall… by persons who had and hadn’t been vaccinated.” “However, patients who had previously received a vaccination reported fewer symptoms over a shorter period of time, indicating that they were feeling less critically unwell and recovering more rapidly.”
Here are some of the most prevalent COVID-19 symptoms, as well as those of the flu, a cold, and allergies. Allergies or the common cold may cause a runny nose, facial discomfort, postnasal drip, and itchy eyes. However, itchy eyes and face discomfort are not typical COVID-19 symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the most frequent symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, fatigue, and dry cough.” “Aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, or a sore throat may occur in some people.” “Nasal congestion was detected in just 1 out of every 20 patients in a paper from China”.
COVID-19 symptoms may have varied as the illness mutates and affects various groups, according to some studies. Sneezing, for example, was long thought to be a less common sign of a COVID-19 infection. It is becoming one of the most prevalent symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms often develop 2 to 14 days after exposure, which is a longer window than the flu, which typically manifests symptoms 1 to 4 days after transmission.
COVID-19 has 11 major symptoms, according to the CDC’s Trusted Source:
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle or body aches
- new loss of taste or smell
- sore throat
- congestion or runny nose
- nausea or vomiting
So far, the Omnicron variation’s symptoms seem to be quite similar to those of the Delta variant. Muscle pains, as well as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, are reported by many of the first patients who develop this variety. Some of them, on the other hand, claim to have had no loss of taste or scent. Some persons who get COVID-19 may not have any symptoms or feel ill. Despite this, these individuals may still spread the coronavirus to others.
Allergies cause chronic symptoms
COVID-19, like the flu or the common cold, is an acute sickness, which means patients are well until symptoms appear. “Allergies should not result in a fever or muscle pains,” Arthur said. “There is generally no cough unless there is a lot of nasal discharge.” Allergies, on the other hand, are more likely than a COVID-19 infection to produce itchy eyes and facial discomfort. Wheezing may be caused by allergies, she noted, particularly in patients who have asthma.
“Allergy symptoms tend to change with the environment,” Cutler noted, “worsening with exposure to dust, pollen, or animal dander, while cold symptoms tend to remain independent of time of day, weather, location, or other environmental variables.” “Colds are more likely to have broad symptoms like fever, headache, and body pains, while allergies normally exclusively impact the respiratory system,” Cutler said. “Antihistamines and other allergy-specific medications tend to improve allergy symptoms,” he stated. “Decongestants, acetaminophen, drinks, and relaxation are more likely to help colds.”
COVID-19 and seasonal allergies have different symptoms, according to the CDC’s Trusted Source. Shortness of breath, coughing, exhaustion, headache, and sore throat are all signs of COVID-19 or allergies, according to the CDC. However, COVID-19 is linked to fever, muscular pains, a loss of taste or smell, nausea, and diarrhea, not allergies.
Wear a mask to protect yourself against COVID-19, the flu, and allergies
Unvaccinated persons should use face masks in indoor public settings to avoid COVID-19, according to the CDC. This will assist to restrict the spread of the coronavirus among persons who don’t have symptoms or are unaware that they are infected. Wearing a face mask has the extra advantage of decreasing the spread of other respiratory infections, such as the flu, as well as pollen and other allergens inhalation.
It’s not the flu, despite the symptoms
COVID-19, a member of the coronavirus family of diseases, is more closely linked to the common cold than the seasonal flu. Despite some overlap, COVID-19 symptoms are more akin to the flu (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscular or body pains, headaches, exhaustion) than the common cold (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, weariness) (runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, mild headache, sneezing, low-grade fever, malaise).
The Delta variety, on the other hand, may manifest cold-like symptoms. “It may be very hard to discern between flu and COVID-19.” “That’s why flu shots are suggested since they can at least… reduce the risk of flu in the context of everything else.”
“Fevers, body pains, coughing, and sneezing may all be ascribed to either,” Deutsch said. “It truly indicates that if there’s a risk for flu, there’s a concern for COVID-19.” Yildirim believes that when and where you become ill is the strongest indicator of whether you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19. People who live in areas with poor vaccination rates and high COVID-19 rates “are more likely to develop COVID-19,” she added, particularly outside of cold and flu season.
During the winter, though, she noted, distinguishing between the three disorders becomes increasingly difficult. If you have a minor case of COVID-19, the flu, or a cold, Cutler says therapy is focused on symptom control. “For fevers, acetaminophen is usually advised,” he stated. “Cough drops and cough syrups may also assist to thin mucus discharges. Antihistamines may be helpful if nasal congestion is present.”
According to a study from the Netherlands published in the journal PLoS One, getting a flu vaccination may help guard against severe COVID-19 symptoms including sepsis, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis. Furthermore, some infectious disease specialists are concerned that, since relatively few individuals had the flu during the 2020-21 flu season, low natural immunity rates might result in a spike in flu infections during the 2021-22 flu season.
It’s possible that some of the cases are life-threatening
COVID-19 instances that are mild are anticipated to last around two weeks, according to Cutler. He stated, “Fortunately, the great majority of instances are modest.” This is especially true if you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccine.
The ordinary cold kills almost no one. And, for the most part, seasonal allergies are more bothersome than harmful. Influenza, on the other hand, kills between 12,000 and 52,000 people in the United States each year. COVID-19 may cause more severe sickness, particularly in persons who have not been vaccinated, however, treatments have improved in the last year. Although an estimated 97 percent of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 sickness are unvaccinated, research from the United Kingdom indicated that vaccinated people accounted for just 0.5 percent of COVID-19 mortality.
The following are severe COVID-19 symptoms that demand emergency medical attention:
- difficulty breathing
- persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- confusion or inability to arouse
- bluish lips or face
A lack of oxygen in the circulation is indicated by bluish lips or cheeks. According to the WHO, around 15% of persons who develop COVID-19 symptoms have severe symptoms and need oxygen. “People aged 60 and over, as well as those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or cancer, are at a greater risk of getting the severe illness,” according to the WHO.