In 2020, we don’t just have to wonder if we are fighting a cold versus seasonal allergies no matter what year it is, as fall seems to bring a slew of coughing and sneezing. If you are feeling unwell, how do you really know if it is a sign that you’ve contracted the novel coronavirus, a cold, the flu, or seasonal allergies? According to health officials, people who have COVID-19 symptoms or are worried they have been exposed to the virus should get tested. There are some key differences, even as many seasonal ailments have similar symptoms to COVID-19.
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus are found around the lungs as it is a respiratory illness. A dry cough and fever are the main symptoms for many patients. Other signs can be fatigue, a new loss of taste or smell, difficulty breathing, a sore throat, and aches and pains in the body. The less common ones include vomiting or diarrhea. If you experience severe chest pain, significant shortness of breath, or a loss of speech and movement, the World Health Organization says these are severe symptoms that need immediate medical attention.
Cold has no fever. It is characterized more by sneezing and a runny or stuffed up nose. According to the CDC, many people with a damaged immune system can develop a more serious illness, but those with the rest recover from a cold within about seven to 10 days. Although not common ones, sneezing and having a running nose are thought to be potential symptoms of COVID-19. Even if you only have a runny nose or are sneezing, self-assessment tools in Ontario and B.C. both recommend getting tested. Ontario advises contacting a doctor as well.
Just like COVID-19 symptoms, influenza is also a respiratory illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that since some of the symptoms are so similar to COVID-19, if you think you are coming down with the flu, “testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.” A number of Canadian health officials also propose getting a COVID-19 test. However, some symptoms do differ. For example, a new loss of taste or smell is something that would point towards COVID-19, while headaches are more related with the flu.
Any virus does not trigger seasonal allergies, but by airborne pollen, usually released in the spring and fall. The allergies predominantly affect the sinuses. It still may be best to contact a doctor about getting tested or take your province or territory’s self-assessment tool if your only symptom is a runny nose. You can find local and territorial resources for COVID-19 testing here on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website. It is essential to get tested when feeling under the weather for those who are currently attending school or working in a job that requires them to interact with large numbers of people.