The Different Symptoms of COVID-19, the Flu, a Cold, Allergies and Asthma

Learn the difference between these respiratory conditions.

COVID-19 is still spreading, which makes every cough and sniffle suspect. It’s important to remember that even with the new coronavirus spreading COVID-19, it’s still cold and flu season and other respiratory ailments are still in play. So how can you tell if you have a cold, the flu, allergies, asthma, or COVID-19? Let’s look at the symptoms of each condition separately to help you understand the differences.

Asthma is chronic and causes inflammation of the airways. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness, and they can either come on gradually or suddenly. There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be managed by identifying triggers and treating symptoms with medication.

COVID-19 is new, and there’s not yet a comprehensive list of symptoms because scientists are still learning about it. We do know that symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, pinkeye, blue or purple lesions on toes, and hives or rashes. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor and follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. If you have severe symptoms, like trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, confusion or an inability to wake up, or a bluish tint on the lips, face, or fingernails, call 911. While vaccines for COVID-19 are available, the best way to prevent its spread is still wearing a face mask, washing hands frequently, socially distancing, and cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. If you think you have COVID-19, isolate yourself, even from those who live in your house, and wear a face mask any time you’re around someone.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It can be mild or severe, and the symptoms can begin suddenly. In the most severe cases, the flu can be fatal. Symptoms include a fever that often gets very high, headache, extreme fatigue, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches in bones and/or muscles, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to lower your risk of getting and transmitting the flu and is especially important if you’re in a high-risk group, like senior adults and people with pre-existing conditions, like asthma. Because it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously, this year, it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine. If you develop flu symptoms, contact your doctor right away so that you can start on anti-viral treatments. These treatments can lessen flu symptoms but must be taken within two days of getting the flu.

The common cold is comparably mild. It’s not as bad as the flu or COVID-19, but it still should be taken seriously, especially because colds can trigger asthma symptoms. Symptoms of a cold include:

  • A mild cough.
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • A short fever.
  • Aches and pains.

Allergies, unlike these other respiratory ailments, are not contagious. Instead, an allergy is caused by a reaction of your immune system. Allergy symptoms include itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and post-nasal drip. You can control allergy symptoms by avoiding contact with allergens. There are also allergy treatments that can help.

If you’re struggling with respiratory issues and want to determine what’s bothering you, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists. We’ll help you determine what you’re dealing with and how to manage it. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists, all physicians are board certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call (866) 966-0583 or schedule an appointment, or check out our website further to learn more about the services available to help you with your allergies.