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The differences between seasonal influenza, allergies and COVID-19

The differences between seasonal influenza, allergies and COVID-19

Is it Seasonal Influenza, Allergies or COVID-19?

As we enter the start of a new influenza (flu) season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself wondering what your symptoms mean when you’re feeling under the weather.

“Many symptoms of the flu, allergies and COVID-19 are similar, and it can be very difficult to distinguish the differences between them,” explains Lucy O’Brien, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician on the Medical Staff at Southwest General. “However, one key difference between the three is the shortness of breath that comes with COVID-19.”

Here’s a look at the symptoms of each along with some tips on prevention:

Seasonal Influenza

Seasonal influenza (flu) is a common respiratory infection caused by a virus that affects your nose, throat and lungs and can last from five to seven days.

“The single best way to prevent getting or spreading the seasonal flu is to get your flu vaccine each year,” says Dr. O’Brien. “Individuals who report getting the flu, and who received a flu shot, report milder symptoms than individuals who were not vaccinated.”

Common symptoms of the flu may include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (sometimes in children)
  • Headache
  • Body aches

“It is important to note that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever,” says Dr. O’Brien.

Prevention:

Getting a flu shot early in the season can help protect you against getting the flu or can minimize the symptoms if you do become infected. The retail Southwest Community Pharmacy is currently offering flu shots on a walk-in basis during business hours. The pharmacy is located in the Main Lobby at the hospital’s Main Campus.

Environmental Allergies

“Environmental allergies are a series of physical symptoms often triggered by seasonal airborne pollen,” explains Dr. O’Brien. “Allergic reactions may result in conjunctivitis or seasonal allergic rhinitis.”

Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Sneezing

“Because many of the symptoms caused by environmental allergies overlap those of COVID-19, you may need to get tested to have an accurate diagnosis,” says Dr. O’Brien.

Prevention:

Although allergies may not be preventable, avoiding exposure to things that trigger your allergies may help reduce symptoms. Talk to your doctor for his/her recommendations on testing and treatment.

COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. While some people may not show any symptoms, those who are sick with COVID-19 can have a range of symptoms that may vary in severity.

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 may include all or some of the following:

  • Fever/Chills
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell

“It is important to keep in mind that this list may not include all of the possible symptoms associated with COVID-19,” says Dr. O’Brien. “As more is learned about the virus, the list of possible symptoms is updated by the CDC.”

Prevention:

COVID-19 is believed to primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

“The best form of prevention continues to be frequent hand washing, social distancing (at least six feet from others), disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and staying home if you show any symptoms,” says Dr. O’Brien. “If you are concerned about the possibility of having COVID-19, contact your physician.”

Stay Informed

To learn more about the coronavirus, and what you can do to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the spread of infection, visit our website.