Coronavirus, flu and allergies comparison of symptoms.

Coronavirus vs. Flu vs. Allergies: What’s the Difference?

Feb 27 2020

The novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, has been declared a pandemic of international concern by the World Health Organization.

With coronavirus, the flu and allergies all sharing similar symptoms, it can be confusing. Get educated on the different symptoms to look out for as well as ways you can help prevent the spread of germs.

Is it flu, coronavirus or allergies?

The flu is a common, contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. The latest coronavirus is a new infection that can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Allergies are not a virus or infection but rather a hypersensitive immune system response to a certain substance.

What are the signs and symptoms of the flu, coronavirus and allergies?

Flu signs and symptoms usually show up about two days after exposure to the virus. They come on quickly and can include:

  • Fever/feeling feverish
  • Headache
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Feeling very tired (fatigue)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Coronavirus signs and symptoms appear about 14 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath

Allergy symptoms can appear instantaneously with exposure to a substance. They include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy, red, watering eyes
  • Wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough

How are the flu and coronavirus germs spread?

Flu germs spread mainly by droplets made by coughing, sneezing or talking. Viruses can also spread on surfaces, but this is less common. People with the flu can spread the virus before, during, and after they are sick.

Coronavirus germs are thought to be spread by coughing or sneezing, as well as close contact with an infected person. Close contact means being within six feet of an infected person for a period of time. It might also be spread by touching items and surfaces that a sick person has used, such as tissues or linens.

Who is most likely to get sick with the flu or coronavirus?

Anyone can get the flu. Some people—such as children, older adults and people with certain health conditions—are at risk of serious complications.

For the coronavirus, people in the United States are at risk of getting sick for two reasons: travel to an area with a travel warning and close contact with a person who has a confirmed infection of coronavirus.

How can I best prevent the flu and coronavirus?

Everyone should start with proper hand hygiene, including washing hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your mouth and face throughout the day.

As always, it is recommended that you get a flu shot every year. Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent flu and can even reduce the severity of your illness if you do get sick.

What should I do if I have questions or believe I have flu or coronavirus?

If you believe you may have the flu and need medical attention, please call your doctor.

If you have general questions about coronavirus in your community, contact your local department of public health:

  • Ohio Department of Health: 833-427-5634
  • Florida Department of Health: 866-799-6121
  • South Carolina Department of Health: 855-472-3482
  • Kentucky Department of Health: 800-722-5725
  • Virginia Department of Health: 800-533-4148
  • Maryland Department of Health: 877-463-3464

If you are concerned that you or a family member have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms, call your primary care provider. Additionally, if you have access to a nurse advice line, you could call that number for information to help you decide where to seek care.

If you are experiencing severe respiratory distress or have a medical emergency, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

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