Cold, Flu, COVID-19, or Seasonal Allergies? How to Tell the Difference

The common cold, influenza or the flu, COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus, and seasonal allergies all share common symptoms.  How do you know the difference? The chart below illustrates common symptoms and their likelihood.

If you think you are suffering from COVID-19, stay home, separate yourself from other people and pets, and call your health care provider.

How can you help prevent the spread of the cold, flu, or coronavirus?

  • If you feel sick, stay at home except for trips to get medical care
  • Separate yourself as much as possible from other people and pets in your home if you are not feeling well
  • If you are sick wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you are around other people
  • Always cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water often, particularly after coughing and sneezing
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth
  • Do not share personal household items
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, including phones, remotes, keyboards, and tablets

Influenza, coronavirus and the common cold are all caused by viruses.  Taking antibiotics for a viral infection will not help, in most cases the infection just needs to run its course. The symptoms you are experiencing are your bodies way of getting rid of the virus. Colds will generally resolve in 7-10 days while the flu commonly lasts 5-7 days. With coronavirus the severity of the symptoms, from mild to severe, will determine the course of action and the recovery time.


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