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COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu: What are the differences?

From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

If you have signs or symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it's important that you contact your health care provider right away for medical advice. But COVID-19, the common cold, seasonal allergies and the flu (influenza) cause many similar symptoms.

So how can you tell if you have COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory disease caused by infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2. It usually spreads between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet, or 2 meters). The virus spreads through respiratory droplets released when someone breathes, coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby or be inhaled. The virus can also spread if a person touches a surface or object with the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, nose or eyes, although this isn't considered to be a main way it spreads.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, cough and tiredness. But there are many other possible signs and symptoms.

Currently, only one antiviral drug, called remdesivir, is approved to treat COVID-19. Some drugs may help reduce the severity of COVID-19. Researchers are working to develop several vaccines to prevent COVID-19.

Both COVID-19 and the common cold are caused by viruses. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, while the common cold is most often caused by rhinoviruses. These viruses spread in similar ways and cause many of the same signs and symptoms. However, there are a few differences.

 

While COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2, symptoms of a common cold usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus.

There's no cure for the common cold. Treatment may include pain relievers and over-the-counter cold remedies, such as decongestants. Unlike COVID-19, a cold is usually harmless. Most people recover from a common cold in three to 10 days, although some colds may last as long as two or three weeks.

Unlike COVID-19, seasonal allergies aren't caused by a virus. Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens.

COVID-19 and seasonal allergies cause many of the same signs and symptoms. However, there are some differences.

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