Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) information for patients and visitors.

Flu, Allergies or Coronavirus?

Wellness | March 13, 2020
young woman blowing nose into a tissue
Coughing? Sneezing? Fever? How can you tell if you have the flu, COVID-19 or allergies? Here are the symptoms to watch for.
We are still in the midst of flu season and now allergy season has sprung, too. With the simultaneous outbreak of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the overlap of symptoms can cause a lot of fear and confusion.
 
Here’s how the symptoms differ:
 

COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, most people with COVID-19 have reported mild symptoms. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.* 

COVID-19 symptoms include: 

  • fever 
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

*This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.

Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include**:
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face

**This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms listed above, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.
 
chart of symptoms for the coronavirus, flu and allergies
 

Flu

Influenza (Flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever*** or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

***It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Allergies

Exposure to airborne substances such as pollens, result in seasonal allergies. Millions of people have seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, which can cause a number of troublesome symptoms. 
Hay fever can cause:
  • Sneezing
  • Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
With any illness, regardless of the time of year, the CDC recommends these everyday preventive actions:
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.