Is it allergies, flu or the coronavirus? How to tell the difference

Itchy eyes? Runny nose? You probably have allergies — or a garden variety cold.

“The issue with seasonal allergies is that they affect the nose and eye,” Poland says. “They tend to be nasal, and most symptoms are localized to the head, unless you also experience a rash.

Coronavirus and flu symptoms tend to be more systemic.

That is, they affect the whole body.

“The flu and the novel coronavirus, these affect other systems and the lower respiratory tract, Poland says. “You probably won’t have a runny nose, but what you might have is a sore throat, a cough, a fever or shortness of breath. So it’s a subtly different clinical diagnosis.

Pay attention to your temperature: Poland says it’s very unlikely that allergies would result in a fever. They usually don’t cause shortness of breath either, unless you have a preexisting condition

Allergy symptoms are regularly occurring, and usually mild.

Poland says if you’ve had the same symptoms around the same time, year after year, you’re probably experiencing seasonal allergies. In that case, over the counter medication and other regular health precautions will help you feel better.

Coronavirus and flu symptoms can put you out of commission.

“If you have an acute case of coronavirus or flu, you will feel so tired, so achy, you’d basically be driven to bed. Everybody would see the difference,” Poland says. “Allergies may make you feel tired, but they’re not going to cause severe muscle or joint ache.”

Cold and mild flu symptoms usually resolve themselves.

Coronavirus and acute flu symptoms could get worse over time.

With normal illnesses, you’ll start feeling better with rest and proper care within a few days (unless you are elderly or have other health conditions, in which case even mild illnesses may take longer to pass).

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