As we hurdle toward the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, you have probably wondered at some point whether your symptoms were COVID-19, influenza, a cold, or maybe seasonal allergies. All four conditions have overlapping symptoms, so it makes sense to be unable to tell.
We’ve taken precautions such as requiring face masks at Apex Medical Center to keep our employees and our patients safe. However, with the high transmissibility rate of some of the COVID variants, many people who are cautious still contract the virus. In this post our experts offer a few tips to help you know whether you have COVID, the flu, a cold, or allergies.
Overlapping symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, a common cold and allergies
First, let’s talk about the symptoms the four conditions share. There are several symptoms that can occur in COVID-19, influenza, a cold, or with seasonal allergies. For example, a stuffy, runny nose can be a symptom of all four.
Other symptoms that can happen in all four instances are sneezing, though it’s more rare with COVID-19, and coughing. Chest discomfort can also occur in each of the conditions, but is more rare in seasonal allergies.
So, you’re stuffy, sneezing, and coughing. What could it be?
It’s probably easiest to differentiate between seasonal allergies and the other three. Seasonal allergies don’t cause a fever, so if you have a fever, you probably aren’t suffering allergies.
Similarly, extreme exhaustion isn’t a symptom associated with allergies. You’re also not going to have general aches and pains with allergies.
It’s possible, but highly unlikely, that allergies will cause a loss of taste or smell.
Influenza and COVID-19
Most everyone is familiar with symptoms of the flu, and in large part they’re similar to symptoms associated with COVID-19. However, one difference is that it’s unusual to have a loss of taste or smell with influenza, though it is possible.
Here are the symptoms that the flu and COVID-19 both present:
- General aches and pains
- Extreme exhaustion
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Chest discomfort
Since the two conditions share so many symptoms, what should you do if you have them? First, we recommend getting tested. Tests for COVID are usually available. In Las Vegas, drive-thru testing is available at some Walgreens locations and the Southern Nevada Health District maintains a list of locations and times testing is available at other locations.
We can perform flu testing in our office, so if your COVID-19 test is negative, that’s a good next step.
The common cold
One of the main differences between a cold and either the flu or COVID-19 is the lack of a fever with a cold. It’s rare to have a fever when you have a cold. Additionally, you’re unlikely to experience extreme exhaustion or loss of taste and smell with a cold.
You may, though, have slight aches and pains, a sore throat, a cough, and mild to moderate chest discomfort.
The best treatment depends on the cause of your symptoms. If over-the-counter allergy medication isn’t helping, or you can’t take it due to other medications, we may be able to offer alternatives.
For COVID-19, the flu, and a common cold, there are a few things you should do:
- Get plenty of rest
- Stay hydrated
- Take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen
- Stay in touch with your doctor
For COVID-19 there are a few things that signal the need for emergency care, including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
- Inability to stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nail beds
Both COVID-19 and the flu are highly contagious respiratory conditions that can become serious. It’s important to monitor your symptoms, isolate yourself from others in your household, and to clean your hands and surfaces often and carefully.
If you have questions, call one of our three offices. We’re happy to provide further guidance, based on your specific situation.