Which is it- cold, flu, allergies or COVID?
By Breanna Callahan, Marketing Coordinator
With fall almost upon us, not only are we thinking about jumping in leaf piles and sipping pumpkin lattes, but also cold and flu season, with seasonal allergies as well. This year is bound to be especially challenging, as we have the complications of COVID-19 to add to the mix. The symptoms of seasonal allergies, the common cold, flu (influenza), and COVID-19, are similar. There are a few differences between each, though.
Below we discuss the characteristics of each type of illness. Although there are many similarities, you will see there are some characteristics unique to each as well. One thing to keep in mind is there is a lot unknown at this time about COVID-19. The information we summarize is what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states as of now.
Symptoms & Length of Illness
The following is a list of common symptoms you could experience with each illness as well as how long you might experience symptoms.
Seasonal Allergies: Itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, sore throat, and headache.
Common Cold: Symptoms are usually milder than the flu and coronavirus. Symptoms come on gradually and can include sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat. Usually symptoms last 7-10 days.
Flu: Symptoms appear quickly and can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue. Symptoms usually last between five and seven days.
Coronavirus: Common symptoms include loss of taste or smell, fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue.
How It Spreads
This section explains how the illness is passed on from one person to another.
Seasonal Allergies: Seasonal allergies are not contagious- you can’t “catch” allergies from someone else. You experience seasonal allergies if you are allergic to the airborne pollen and come into contact with it.
Common Cold: Colds are passed on from person to person between those standing close (usually closer than six feet) when they cough, sneeze, or talk. You also can get infected if touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something with the virus on it.
Flu: Flu is also passed on from person to person between those standing close (usually closer than six feet) when they cough, sneeze, or talk. You also can get infected if touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something with the virus on it.
Coronavirus: Coronavirus is passed on from person to person between those standing close (usually closer than six feet) when they cough, sneeze or talk. Also can get infected if touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something with the virus on it. According to the CDC, at this time it is believed Coronavirus is more easily passed on (contagious) than the flu.
Below are some ideas for symptom relief. These are just brief, general ideas, though. Your healthcare provider can explain your options best.
Seasonal Allergies: You can take over-the-counter allergy medication for symptom relief.
Common Cold: Drink plenty of fluids, rest, and take over-the-counter medicine for symptom relief.
Flu: Relieve symptoms with rest and over the counter pain and fever medications. Dr. Droeszler stated that you may be able to get a prescription antiviral drug from your primary care provider if you are within the correct treatment window.
Coronavirus: Relieve symptoms with rest and over the counter pain and fever medications.
Seasonal Allergies: Limit exposure to allergens and monitor the pollen forecast. If pollen levels are high, try to stay indoors. If you spend time outdoors, take a shower and change your clothes when you return indoors.
Common Cold: Frequently wash your hands and practice good hygiene, avoid touching your face, and social distance yourself from others.
Flu: Receive your yearly flu vaccine, wash your hands frequently and practice good hygiene. Stay home if you’re ill, avoid touching your face, and social distance yourself from others.
Coronavirus: Frequently wash your hands, wear a mask in public, avoid touching your face, stay home if you’re ill, avoid large gatherings and social distance yourself from others.
Dr. Droeszler, Southwest Health Family Medicine Physician, says, “Some cases of COVID-19 and influenza, like many other viral illnesses, can appear very similar to each other when first starting. However, they can both become quite severe in some people, especially those with certain pre-existing conditions. If you have any questions, please reach out to your healthcare provider. Please wear a mask, wash your hands often, and follow any quarantine guidelines as instructed.”
As you can see, a few key takeaways are that hand-washing, staying home if you are ill, and not going near other people are important to keep yourself and others healthy. If you have any questions or are concerned about your symptoms, please talk with your healthcare provider.