Allergies, Cold, COVID-19 and Flu: Learn about the Symptoms

[Image description: A woman is sitting on a couch while she sneezes into a tissue. She is having an online doctor visit on her laptop.]

While we are starting to understand COVID-19 better than a few months ago, there are still some uncertainties. One of the main sources of confusion is how to differentiate COVID-19 from other illnesses that have similar symptoms such as the flu, allergies and the common cold. It is true that there are many overlapping symptoms among these conditions, but there are also some key differentiators to be aware of. The more knowledgeable you are about the variations, the better prepared you will be to seek the care and support you need.

Learn about allergies, coldCOVID-19 and flu

Here are the most common symptoms for each condition:

Allergy symptoms 

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or running nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Sneezing

Cold symptoms

  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Slight muscle or body aches
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus pressure
  • Congestion
  • Minimal fevers
  • Mild body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Slight cough that may linger
  • Often lasts a week with slow improvement of congestions

COVID-19 symptoms

  • Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Symptoms can last longer
  • Higher likelihood of GI involvement

Flu symptoms

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Onset is usually sudden
  • Symptoms are more severe aches
  • Feeling “wiped out”
  • Lower likelihood of GI involvement

Next steps for care

If you are unsure of what your symptoms mean, there are additional steps you can take:

Find support.

This is especially important if you are confused about your symptoms and need help ruling out certain ailments. Plus, you don’t need to leave home to find the care you are looking for. Doctors on LiveHealth Online can help you from the comfort of home by providing next steps, ordering prescriptions and referring you to testing if needed.

If you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing an emergency, seek emergency medical care.  

Track your symptoms and be prepared to describe them.

Once you have found a doctor to meet with, describe the symptoms you are experiencing in that moment. Be as specific as possible so your doctor can get a better sense of your condition. Some key details to include might be:

  • When your symptoms started
  • The time of day they usually occur
  • How often they happen and how long they last
  • If they seem to be getting worse or better
  • What treatments you’ve tried and if they’ve worked
  • If your symptoms have kept you from your usual activities
  • The severity (mild, moderate or severe) of your symptoms

Looking for support? Talk to a doctor in minutes on LiveHealth Online!

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What is LiveHealth Online?

LiveHealth Online is a service where you select a doctor, and he or she can answer questions, assess your condition and even provide a prescription if needed. Learn more

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