Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, now approaching its second full year in the United States, the slightest sniffle can feel like a cause for concern. One of the most powerful tools you can wield in this situation is an understanding of the symptoms, and the ability to compare them to those you’re experiencing. This knowledge can not only calm your fears if you’re dealing with something besides coronavirus but can help you differentiate between other common conditions, such as the cold, flu, and allergies, in order to pursue the right treatment and start feeling better sooner rather than later.
Of course, if you’re feeling uncertain about your symptoms, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor. They may order a coronavirus lab test or prescribe certain medications in order to best get an accurate diagnosis and treat your symptoms.
Seasonal allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to particular allergens, such as grass, tree, or ragweed pollen. This allergic reaction, whether to ragweed or another allergen, typically comes with itchy eyes, nose, mouth, or ears, sneezing, and a runny or stuffy nose. In some cases, these allergy symptoms may be accompanied by a cough, tiredness, loss of taste or smell, or even pink eye. Unless you have an underlying condition such as asthma, you most likely won’t experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, nor are you likely to encounter COVID symptoms like fever, muscle aches, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if you’re dealing with allergies alone.
The common cold is one of the most common conditions to afflict children and adults alike, and most individuals have experienced it at some point in their life. The most prevalent cold symptoms include a cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose. Those dealing with a cold might also encounter muscle aches, tiredness, sneezing, fever, or a loss of taste or smell, especially when dealing with a stuffy nose. However, potential COVID-19 symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea are not associated with the common cold.
According to CDC estimates, millions of people come down with influenza each year, which means these symptoms are plenty common as well. The flu may manifest with symptoms such as cough, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fever, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, patients might deal with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea but it’s rare to see the loss of taste or smell with the flu alone.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 or coronavirus include a cough (most often a dry cough), fever or chills, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, sore throat, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, congestion, or runny nose, and the loss of taste or smell. Clearly, there is a significant overlap with other conditions, including allergies, colds, and flu. Typically, you won’t experience the sneezing of the common cold or allergies, or the itchy nose, eyes, mouth, or ears of allergies when facing COVID-19. COVID symptoms also tend to manifest less quickly than flu symptoms, however similar these symptoms might be.
When in doubt, it’s always best to talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider for a formal diagnosis, COVID test, if necessary, and a thorough treatment plan. Whether you’re dealing with a cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, or COVID-19, there are treatment options you can utilize in order to alleviate your symptoms and fight your particular condition. And, in the meantime, you can build a more thorough understanding of these symptoms and be better able to prepare yourself for any of these prevalent illnesses.