How To Tell If You Have Allergies, A Cold, The Flu Or Covid-19

How To Distinguish Between Allergies, A Cold, The Flu Or Covid-19

With Fall well underway, we're in the midst of seasonal allergy, cold and flu season and because this year  is like no other, COVID-19 is also part of that not so delightful mix now. Sharing a number of similar symptoms, it can be nerve-wracking when you get a tickle in your throat or a case of the sniffles and you're not exactly sure how to distinguish what you have. The best course of action is to avoid getting sick at all but that's not always possible. Here is a breakdown of the telltale signs of each condition and your best defense against it.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies typically occur during the spring, late summer, early fall and sometimes in the winter. Allergies in the spring, summer and fall are caused by pollen from trees, grasses and weeds while winter allergies are usually caused by indoor allergen like dust mites.

Symptoms of Allergies

• Watery or itchy eyes

• Sneezing

• Runny nose 

• Itchy throat 

• Puffy eyelids

• Congestion in your nose, ears or chest

• Postnasal drip

How To Prevent/Treat

It's best to try to be actively aware of and avoid exposure to your triggers. Prepare yourself before going out by checking pollen forecasts and wear a face mask if you need to. When you get home, change out of your clothes and take a shower to remove any pollen that might've gotten onto your skin and hair. When indoors, keep windows closed during allergy season and if indoor allergens are an issue, dust and vaccum regularly and try using an air purifier. 

You can probably treat most cases yourself with an over-the-counter antihistamine and/or decongestant. If your allergies are more severe, you may want to see your doctor for a stronger solution.

The Common Cold

A cold is an upper-respiratory viral infection that is caused by any one of 200 viruses, most commonly rhinoviruses. The cold virus which can be spread through airborne droplets can enter your body through your mouth, eyes or nose when you come in contact with someone who is sick that coughs, sneezes, or talks.  Cold viruses can survive for as long on 2 hours on objects and surfaces and can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of the Cold

• Sore throat

• Nasal congestion

• Runny nose

• Sneezing

• Mucous discharge

• Post nasal drip

• Cough

• Mild body aches

How To Prevent/Treat

As with any type of infection, the best defense against colds is a strong immune system. It's best to avoid or at least minimize contact with people who are sick. Don't touch anything which they touch and wash your hands frequently and properly.

There is no cure for the common cold and it will usually never get serious enough that you would need to see a doctor. You can alleviate symptoms with over-the-counter medications. And your body will benefit from staying well hydrated since fluids can dilute mucus, making it easier to drain from your nose and sinuses. You may also benefit from getting plenty of rest as there is research that shows your body produces proteins called cytokines, which are important for fighting infection and inflammation while you are sleeping. Also be sure to frequently disinfect high touch surfaces and objects.

The Flu

The flu also known as influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu can range from mild to severe. At it's onset, the symptoms of the fu feel much the same as a cold but the symptoms usually progress much more rapidly. If fever and fatigue develop rather quickly, then you're mostly down with the flu. 

Symptoms of the Flu

• Sore throat

• Nasal congestion

• High Fever over 100.4℉  (38 ℃)

• Body aches

• Chills and sweats

• Shortness of breath

• Headache

• Dry cough

• Fatigue

• Weakness

How To Prevent/Treat

The flu vaccine provides the best defense against the flu but the vaccine does not offer complete protection and you may still contract the flu even if you get the shot. This is because the vaccine contains a few different strains of the flu and since viruses are highly mutable, it is possible to contract a different strain. As with a cold, you can reduce your chances of getting it by avoiding people who are sick as the flu is highly contagious. 

Over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms and staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest will also help. You don't usually need to see a doctor if you get the flu but if your fever or body aches become severe, you might want to see your doctor and get a prescription for an antiviral drug to ease your symptoms and shorten the course of illness by a day or two.


The novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that has rapidly spread causing a global pandemic. The coronavirus is part of a family of infectious viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. A novel coronavirus is a new strain that hadn’t been previously identified in humans. Someone who is infected may exhibit cold and/or flu-like symptoms including cough, fever, and other respiratory issues. The infection can range from mild to serious which may result in lower respiratory issues like  bronchitis or even pneumonia. Here is a complete breakdown on COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19

• Fever or chills

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue

• Muscle or body aches

• Chills

• Headache

• Loss of sense of taste or smell

• Sore throat

• Cough (usually dry)

• Nausea or vomiting

• Digestive issues

• Diarrhea

• Congestion or runny nose (less common)

How To Prevent/Treat

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus and exercising basic common sense and good hygiene. This includes wearing a protective face mask whenever outdoors as mask wearing can reduce the rate of transmission and keep people from touching their faces. You should also practice social distancing in general as well as avoid indoor gathering as well as anyone who may potentially be sick. If you start feeling symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible and quarantine yourself.

People who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are quarantined or hospitalized depending on the severity  of symptoms. Treatment is the same as a cold, plenty of rest and fluids. OTC medication can be used to relieve a sore throat and/or fever. There are many cases in which people have fully recovered. Because coronavirus is a viral infection, antibiotics can’t be used to treat it. While there are a number in development, there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus. If your symptoms are mild, stay home and rest but you should seek medical attention immediately if they worsen and you feel any difficulty breathing, confusion, pain or pressure in the chest, an inability to stay awake, and/or bluish lips.

Be sure to check out these tips on How To Avoid Getting Sick.

Photo: Vogue Australia


Lovely said...

This is very informative! While in previous years we may have chalked up a sore throat or body aches to a cold or flu, this year’s pandemic adds a new element of concern to getting sick. It's great to have all this info at one place. Thanks for sharing!

Omaye said...

This is very vital information and I like this. The little things make the difference. The symptoms do differ and thank you for bringing this too light.
I really love this!

Have a great day and amazing week!

Corinne said...

It's so hard to know what is what these days! Now I'm pregnant too which brings in a whole new bunch of symptoms I feel almost daily! I'm always hot, sneezy and a congested!

Corinne x

Ivana Split said...

Very informative article about the differences between Covid 19, seasonal flu and allergies. It is good that prevention for all of them is similar so by apllying any of these prevention mehanisms we are doing something for prevention of them all. Not touching our face, washing our hands often, disinfecting items we use, washing our clothes often...these are all sensible and hygenic things to do. Really we should always be doing them.

Emmylou said...

THis is such an awesome post, chingu! When school started, my middle child (who has seasonal allergies) sneezed a lot in the morning, and I was really worried that the school might think it was COVID. Thank God they did update their list...and I also made my son take meds when he has to go to school (thankfully not every day).
Stay safe. So nervous for all you guys, but I really hope the orange president's time is over soon. XOXO

mia said...

This is such an informative read! I think you hit the nail on the head with all the preventative measures: stay away from sick people and keep your immune system as healthy as possible! xx

mia //

Hena Tayeb said...

Thanks for sharing.. this is very informative.

Mica said...

Lots of good info here, thanks for sharing! While we don't have enough cases to have the drive through COVID testing centres any more the doctors here always give out referrals for you to get tested that day if you have any symptoms that could be the virus - it's good that they are so on top of it to keep everyone safe and that we can get tested and get the results so quickly :) Some places even do multiple tests - so you get a test for covid and another one for like the common cold and things. Not as comfortable getting the poke multiple times but good to know exactly what you have!

Hope that your week is off to a good start :)

Away From Blue

Express Yourself by Paola Lauretano said...

Very informative post, thanks for sharing Rowena!
Kisses, Paola.


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The Exclusive Beauty Diary said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post. It is very informative.

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Express Yourself by Paola Lauretano said...

Happy Wed my sweet friend!
Kisses, Paola.


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Dressed With Soul said...

Dear Rowena, thank you for this very helpful overview as I think it can be really difficult to find out on what illness we really suffer. And corresponding Covid I believe like you that Social Distancing is here most supportive not to get this virus.
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

Sakuranko said...

This is a very useful and informative post. I was with Covid-19 the past August and was horrible, I had a fever, fatigue, dry cough, and difficult breathing.

Jackie Harrison said...

Great helpful information I so appreciated since I'm under the weather.

Jo Rashi said...

This is really informative and useful information...thanks for sharing dear :-)
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