COVID-19, Allergies or Flu? Here’s the Difference between Coronavirus and other Illnesses

Updated on April 10th, 2020
coronavirus and flu

The spread and fatality of COVID-19 have stagnated and set the world in a panic mode. But the similarity of COVID-19 with other infections like cold and flu (influenza) has got people and health experts worried.

Some experts say that since it had similar symptoms to cold or other seasonal viruses, in the beginning, they were treated for the same instead of COVID-19. Is it just like the flu? No, it is more dangerous and lethal.

However, symptoms such as coughs and fever are similar symptoms between flu and COVID-19. Influenza or flu is also a vicious virus.

Since 2010, it has infected between 9 million – 45 million people and claimed around 12,600 – 61,000 lives annually (1). 

However, there are annual flu shots that people can get and also proper medications that are available to the infections. In some people, flu can become a long-term health condition that can cause asthma, diabetes, heart problems, and lung inflammation. 

Why is COVID-19 More Dangerous Than Flu?

COVID-19 is caused by the new novel coronavirus, which was not known to humans earlier. The disease has been killing more people in large proportions and is around the globe. It is also more lethal to people that are over 40. The deadliest virus is even overwhelming the hospitals and governments. Besides, the fatality rate is much higher in people with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic respiratory diseases.

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Symptoms of COVID-19, Flu, & Other Similar Diseases

While symptoms like fever and cough are identical in flu and COVID-19, there are a few symptoms that could differentiate these two and other common illnesses. Below listed are a few:

COVID-19 Flu Strep Cold Seasonal allergies
Fever (common) Fever (common) Fever (Common) Runny nose Runny nose
Dry cough (common) Dry cough (common) Sore throat (Common) Sneezing Sneezing
Sore throat Headaches Painful swallowing Congestion
Red, swollen, or itchy eyes
Shortness of breath Sore throat Fever Itchy nose
Aches and pains Fatigue
Mild sneezing Runny nose
Fatigue (rare) Diarrhea
Diarrhea (rare)
Quick onset (1-4 days)
Slow onset (1-14 days)

Strep is not as lethal as COVID-19 or flu, as it can be effectively treated with medications. In some cases, if left untreated, it can worsen the infection, which can damage the heart, kidneys, and joints. 

Cold is also another small condition that can be misunderstood for COVID-19. It is not that severe and can be treated with mild conditions. In fact, it doesn’t really affect daily life. In rare cases, if the cold is persistent and left untreated, it can cause asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Seasonal allergies are the most common illness that can infect anyone. It can be self-diagnosed and treated with necessary medications or remedies. However, if it is associated with a weaker immune system or if the person has frequent allergies, it may cause sinusitis, migraines, eczema, and ear or lung infections. 

Note that other than COVID-19, all the other infections are easily treatable. However, if you are suffering from any such diseases, make sure that you treat them at the earliest possible. It helps you avoid any health complications in the near future. 

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coping with covid 19

Is there a Treatment for COVID-19?

Unlike flu, there are no approved vaccines or medications for treating coronavirus. The current treatment for COVID-19 involves relieving symptoms of it. It may include:

  • Fluid intake
  • Rest
  • Cough syrup or medication
  • Pain relievers

Depending on the health conditions and symptoms, the patient may also be given medications to control the fever and fight other complications involved with it. People infected with influenza exhibit symptoms between 1 to 4 days. On the other hand, COVID-19 may exhibit symptoms anywhere between 1 to 14 days from the day of getting infected. Thus, people with novel coronavirus may asymptomatically spread the illness. 

One more reason COVID-19 is more dangerous is the lack of medical resources to fight it. In general, governments and hospitals anticipate the flu and load their hospitals with medications and resources to control them. But, COVID-19 has spread so rapidly in major countries, that they are falling short of medical supplies, beds, and even effective diagnostic centers to check people around the nation. 

Some experts claim that COVID-19 can become endemic. It means that the disease may regularly attack humans unless an effective medication, treatment, or vaccine is readily available for the people. 

coronavirus vs flu vs cold
Source: DW.com , WHO , CDC

Bottom line:

Flu is dangerous, and the world is aware of it. It is a burden on society and as well as on the government. However, if necessary care is taken, it can be controlled without any significant complications. On the other hand, COVID-19 is more dangerous with no quick way to stop or control it. One positive way we all could contain it is by taking necessary precautionary measures and following the protocols directed by the governments. 

Everything during this time can sound stressful and impose mental strain on you. It is advised by the government and health experts not to panic and be conscious of the information that you read and take proper care of yourself.

Let us all be positive, and together we can ward this COVID-19 in no time.

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