The difference between COVID-19, flu and allergies

Medical experts say you should contact your doctor right away if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you've possibly been exposed to the virus, but sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between having the new strain of the coronavirus, the flu or just allergies.


The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. According to WHO, some people become infected but don’t feel unwell or experience any symptoms. Around 80 percent of people recover from the disease without any special treatment needed. Still, about one in six people becomes seriously ill from COVID-19 and experiences breathing difficulties.

Serious illnesses are more likely to occur in older people or who fall in the CDC’s higher-risk group: people who have serious chronic medical conditions, including lung disease, diabetes and heart disease and older adults. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.

COVID-19 is believed to spread from person to person through sneezing or coughing. Respiratory droplets containing the virus can remain on surfaces even after the ill person is no longer near.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection? The primary symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may include muscle aches, nasal congestion, sore throat and diarrhoea.


Flu symptoms include fever over 100.4 F (38 C), dry cough, chills and sweats, congestion, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue and weakness. It is important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Symptoms typically last one week.

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu. For most people, influenza resolves on its own. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly.

While both colds and the flu are caused by viruses and typically lead to a stuffy nose, coughing and a sore throat, knowing the difference between cold and flu symptoms, many of which overlap, can make a world of difference when it comes to figuring out the type of infection you may have.

A cold happens gradually and is felt mainly in the head and the nose, usually with more mild symptoms and fatigue. While you may feel crummy, if you do not have a fever, you can still generally continue to go about your day. However, if you have the flu, symptoms are much more severe than with a cold and have a quick onset.

Treatment of a common cold may include rest, pain relievers and over-the-counter cold remedies, such as decongestants. A cold usually lasts three to 10 days, although some may last as long as two or three weeks.


Allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose, itchy eyes, itchy roof of the mouth, runny/stuffy nose and watery, red or swollen eyes.

If you tend to get "colds" that develop suddenly and occur at the same time every year, it's possible that you actually have seasonal allergies. Although colds and seasonal allergies may share some of the same symptoms, they are very different diseases.

Common colds are caused by viruses, while seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens.

Treatment of seasonal allergies may include over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants, and avoidance of exposure to allergens where possible. Seasonal allergies may last several weeks.







  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue


  • Muscle aches
  • Pneumonia
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea


  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue


  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Red, swollen eyes