Common Cold, COVID, Allergies and the Flu: How to know the difference?

Updated: Jun 21


The common cold, seasonal allergies, COVID-19, and the flu have many similar signs and symptoms so, let’s discuss how to spot the differences between them. Remember is you suspect or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 it is best to err on the side of caution and contact your healthcare provider to get tested for COVID.


The Common Cold


According to the CDC, there are over 200 viruses that can cause the “common cold”, but the rhinovirus is the most common cause. Viruses that cause colds can spread from person to person through the air and close personal contact.


Viruses first infect the nose and air-filled pockets in the face (sinuses), which leads to inflammation (swelling) within the sinuses leading to increased mucus production, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, cough, sore throat, etc. Some symptoms can last for up to 10 to 14 days, but those symptoms should be improving during that time. It’s important to note that most individuals do not experience a fever with the common cold.



COVID-19


COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory disease caused by infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2. It usually spreads through respiratory droplets between people who are in close contact. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets released when someone breathes, coughs, sneezes, talks, or sings. These respiratory droplets can also be on surfaces and spread if an individual comes in contact with the surfaces and then touches his/her mouth or eyes; although this is not the primary means of transmission.


The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell.


Allergies


Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as a seasonal tree or grass pollens. Symptoms of allergies typically involve itchy nose/eyes, sneezing, and a stuffy/running nose. Fever and muscle aches is typically never a symptom.



Flu


The flu is a contagious respiratory virus caused by influenza A and B viruses and spread in similar ways as COVID-19. Symptoms of the flu typically come on suddenly and can include a fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue.


Here is a quick table to help you determine the cause of your symptoms:


Symptom

Common Cold

Allergies

COVID-19

Influenza

Fever

Never

Never

Usually

Usually

Cough

Usually

Sometimes

Usually

Usually

Runny/Stuffy Nose

Usually

Usually

Usually

Usually

Sneezing

Sometimes

Usually

Rarely

Rarely

Sore Throat

Usually

Rarely

Usually

Usually

Muscle Aches

Sometimes

Never

Usually

Usually

Fatigue

Sometimes

Sometimes

Usually

Usually

Shortness of Breath

Never

Rarely

Usually

Rarely

Loss of taste/smell

Sometimes

Sometimes

Usually

Rarely

Nausea/Vomiting

Never

Never

Sometimes

Sometimes (most common in children)

Diarrhea

Never

Never

Sometimes

Sometimes (most common in children)

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis)

Never

Sometimes

Rarely

Rarely


Treatment


Currently, there is only one approved antiviral for COVID-19; remdesivir. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to shorten the course and severity of symptoms. There are several antivirals that can be used to treat influenza.


Currently, there are no treatments for the common cold and symptoms will resolve without the use of antibiotics. For allergies, there are many over-the-counter medications and prescriptions to aid in symptom control.


For the best course of treatment for the flu, allergies, and COVID-19 please seek the guidance of your primary care provider.


As always Reform ABQ is here to help! If you are in need of primary care please click the link below to schedule an appointment.



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