You wake up noticing that you are not feeling well, and you are congested. The first thing that may cross your mind is: “Do I have Covid-19?”
Spring season is nowhere, and you may have noticed the trees and flowers in full bloom. With that, however, you might be having allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergies are caused by your body’s immune response to allergens such as grass, flowers, and tree pollen. Approximately 20 percent of people suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Signs and symptoms of allergies: Some of the signs and symptoms of allergies are itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, sniffling/runny nose, and postnasal drainages that can lead to a mild sore throat. Sometimes you may have a cough, feel tired, have pink eyes, or even a loss of taste or smell. You will rarely ever get a fever, chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea due to allergies. To control your symptoms, you can take an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine and/or nasal sprays. Short-term use of over-the-counter decongestants may help your nasal congestion. To alleviate the flare-up of allergic rhinitis, you can try to avoid your exposure to allergens if possible. Allergies can last for a long time, so if you have been congested for weeks and are wondering if you have a cold or flu, it is more likely that you have allergies.
On the other hand, Cold, Flu, and Covid-19 are caused by viruses. The most common virus that causes the Common Cold is the rhinovirus.
Signs and symptoms of the Common Cold: With the Common Cold, you may develop a cough, sore throat, and/or runny nose. Sometimes you may even get muscle aches and feel tired. You may experience a bit of a fever but will not experience nausea, vomiting and or diarrhea. However, you may experience a new loss of taste or smell in some cases.
You will usually recover in 3 to 10 days.
When you are exposed to the Flu (Influenza A or B) or COVID-19 (SAR CoV-2 virus), the symptoms can be very similar. The onset of flu is 1 to 4 days after exposure to the flu virus and 2 to 14 days after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Symptoms can range from no symptoms or mild to severe symptoms. They are so similar that it would be difficult to tell if you have the Flu or COVID-19.
With the Flu and COVID-19, you will have a fever, chills, body aches, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, a cough and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue, and headaches. You may also get nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with both the Flu and COVID-19, but not with the Common Cold or Seasonal Allergies.
With COVID-19, you may experience a loss of taste or smell more frequently, and it can start at the early stage of illness without nasal congestion or a stuffy nose.
COVID-19 can lead to more serious conditions such as blood clots and multisystem failures.
One important thing about all of these illnesses is that they can be prevented.
You can reduce your risk by getting an annual flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines.
The Common Cold, Flu, and COVID-19 can spread from person to person through droplets that contain the virus from people who are sneezing, coughing, and/or talking. These particles can be inhaled into your lungs or can be picked up by touching surfaces that are contaminated with these droplets. In this scenario, you may get infected when you touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Here are some preventive measures that you can practice to reduce your risk of getting the Common Cold, Flu, and COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If you are not able to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Cough or sneeze into your mask or cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands and/or change your mask to a new, clean one
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces or keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, etc., regularly, or as needed
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention if needed
You will need to seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing:
- Breathing difficulties
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Inability to stay awake
- Bluish lips, skin color, or nail beds
- Any other severe symptoms that you are concerned about
Most importantly, get your vaccinations updated, get plenty of sleep and keep hydrated to stay healthy.
By: Sun Jones, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, University of Phoenix College of Nursing
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2021). How COVID-19 Spreads. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2022). Symptoms of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2022). How to Protect Yourself & Others. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2021). Key Facts about Influenza (Flu). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2022). Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020). Allergens and Pollen. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/allergen.htm
- deShazo, R. & Kemp, S. (2022). Patient education: Allergic rhinitis (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/allergic-rhinitis-beyond-the-basics