COVID-19, Cold, Allergies, and the Flu: What Are the Differences?

Rocket Health
3 min readJan 4, 2022


COVID-19, the common cold, seasonal allergies, and the flu have many similar signs and symptoms and one can easily be mistaken for the other. In this piece, we share some of the important signs and symptoms that can help you differentiate between the four.

Because the symptoms of the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are often similar, you cannot solely rely on the symptoms. It is important to get tested in order to get the best and right treatment.

Difference between COVID-19 and the common cold:

COVID-19 and common cold are caused by two different viruses. The common cold is caused by Rhinoviruses while COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2.

The COVID-19 symptoms often appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus while the common cold symptoms appear at least one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Unlike COVID-19, the common cold is usually harmless and most people recover within three to ten days.

Differences between COVID-19 and seasonal allergies:

Unlike COVID-19, allergies aren’t caused by a virus. Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens.

Important to note is that COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing while seasonal allergies don’t usually cause these symptoms unless you have a respiratory condition such as asthma.

Difference between COVID-19 and the flu:

COVID-19 and the flu are both contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses.

The main differences between COVID-19 and the flu are the viruses that cause them and how soon their symptoms manifest. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus while the flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses. are both contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses.

COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 while flu symptoms usually appear about one to four days after exposure to an influenza virus.

COVID-19 can sometimes cause a person to suddenly lose their sense of smell or taste. But with the flu, this rarely occurs although it can occur with certain strains of the virus.

It’s important to note that ​​vaccines developed for COVID-19 do not protect against influenza, and similarly, the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19. Also, someone can get infected by both the influencer viruses and the COVID-19 virus. (World Health Organisation)

Knowing the difference between these four can help you get the right treatment. If you aren’t sure which of these you have, please seek medical assistance from a trained professional. Also remember to always wear your mask, social distance, keep your hands clean, and get vaccinated to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Written by Angella Hilda Kemirembe



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