Do I Have COVID or Just a Cold?

As many Americans approach the new, in-person school year or head back into the office full-time during cold and flu season, you may be wondering how to tell the difference between COVID vs. cold symptoms. The truth is COVID, the common cold, seasonal allergies and the flu all have many similar signs and symptoms, so it can be difficult to tell them apart—unless you know exactly what to look for.

If you or a loved one is showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19, contact your primary care doctor right away for medical advice.

COVID-19 and its variants are highly contagious. As we now know, it is a respiratory disease caused by infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2. It spreads through respiratory droplets released through breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking or singing. It can also spread if a person touches a surface or object with the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, cough and tiredness.

Understanding COVID vs cold symptoms

Since COVID and the common cold share many symptoms and are spread in a similar way, it’s important to understand the similarities and differences between COVID symptoms vs cold symptoms.

Here are the main similarities:

Sign or symptomCOVID-19Common Cold
CoughUsually (dry)Sometimes
Muscle achesUsuallySometimes
Sore throatUsuallyUsually
Runny or stuffy noseUsuallyUsually

Here are the main differences:

Sign or symptomCOVID-19Common Cold
Nausea or vomitingSometimesNever
New loss of taste or smellUsually, and often without a runny or stuffy noseSometimes, but typically associated with a stuffy nose

COVID-19 symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2, whereas symptoms of a common cold usually appear 1-3 days after exposure to a cold-causing virus, like the rhinovirus. Unlike COVID, a cold is usually harmless, with most people recovering within 3-10 days (though some may last up to 2-3 weeks).

COVID vs seasonal allergy symptoms

Unlike the common cold and COVID, seasonal allergies are not caused by a virus and can last for several weeks. Allergies are immune system responses triggered by certain allergens, like pollen. While they may present in a similar way, there are some key differences:

Sign or symptomCOVID-19Seasonal Allergies
Muscle achesUsuallyNever
Itchy eyes, nose, mouth or inner earNeverUsually
Sore throatUsuallyRarely
Nausea or vomitingSometimesNever

Another important thing to remember is that while COVID can cause a shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, seasonal allergies don’t usually cause these symptoms unless you have a co-occurring respiratory condition like asthma that can be triggered by allergens.

COVID vs flu symptoms

It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between COVID vs. flu symptoms because they are both respiratory diseases that present in similar ways. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while the flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses. To further complicate matters, it is possible to have both diseases at the same time. Right now, the best way to tell the difference between COVID vs flu symptoms, without taking a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, is to look for a new loss of taste or smell.

Whether you’re struggling with symptoms COVID, the common cold, seasonal allergies or the flu, if you’re symptoms do not improve or you notice them getting worse, contact Amory Urgent Care at 662-337-7973 to discuss your needs or reserve a spot in line for a rapid COVID test. We offer the COVID viral rapid test, to determine if you currently have the virus, 7 days a week. Once we have the results, we can determine the best possible treatment for you.

To treat colds and the flu, visit us for a walk-in appointment 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.