We are on the frontlines of helping our community learn about COVID-19 while also caring for other day-to-day needs. This is especially tricky when trying to determine if a patient is presenting with symptoms that may overlap a few different diagnoses. There are a few key differences with varying treatments you should know when thinking specifically about COVID-19, the common cold, and allergies.
Why is it hard to tell?
There are a number of reasons why it could be hard to tell if you are presenting with allergies, the common cold, or COVID-19. For starters, because COVID is a new disease, scientists and medical professionals are at the beginning stages of collecting data on symptoms and cross referencing what is more frequently seen and what is more of a coincidence. Additionally, patients with any disease or condition may not report a symptom they have because it bothers them to a lesser degree or because they may be accustomed to that symptom for other reasons.
What are differences?
With both allergies and the common cold, runny, congested nose, facial pain or headaches, cough, and a sore throat are some of the biggest indicators. In fact, a common cold may look exactly like allergies in some patients, but frequency, would be the main difference, with allergies being associated with some environmental factor. For COVID-19, some of the common symptoms are fever, fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath. Some patients report nausea, gastrointestinal issues, or loss of taste or smell.
While cough is present as a symptom for all three issues, the cough itself is different. A cough from a cold or allergies is due to the congestion and irritants in and around the throat. A cough from COVID-19 is more likely to be from the lungs as the breathing is impacted due to the virus running its course.
It is actually more difficult to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 despite them being different viruses. Symptoms are very similar and without a test, it would be less likely for a doctor to know the difference.
How do I treat each?
For treatment of allergies or the common cold, we recommend a lot of fluids and rest as needed. Some over the counter medicines may work for some patients and our medical staff can provide guidance during your next appointment. For a patient who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, we recommend several steps.
- Monitoring closely while isolating from others.
- Drinking lots of fluids and getting rest will help your body fight the virus. If you are in pain, acetaminophen may help.
- Taking your temperature and assessing your breathing will be important to the treatment process. If you are having breathing issues, you will need to go to the hospital for additional care. Pain in the chest, bluish lips, and the inability to stay awake are also signs you need immediate care.
- If you have had contact with anyone, you will need to keep them up to date so they can also limit contact and monitor their own condition from home.
We know it can be difficult to guess what is going on inside your body while also wishing you felt better and could get back to your regular life. If you need our help, our clinics are open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm. We have more information online to help you contact us.