Cold, Flu, or COVID-19: How to Tell the Difference

cold flu covid19

Sneezing, coughing, chills… do you have a cold, the flu, or even COVID-19?

The common cold, flu, and COVID-19 are all respiratory illnesses, but different viruses cause them. While the cold can cause you to feel sick for a few days, the flu and COVID-19 can leave you ill for weeks, lead to more serious illnesses, hospitalization, and even death.

Cold Symptoms

A cold does not usually result in serious health problems but the symptoms often last about a week.

• runny or stuffy nose
• sore throat
• congestion
• cough
• slight fever

Flu Symptoms

The flu is worse than a cold and the symptoms are more severe and usually come on quickly but generally improve over two to five days even though you may feel worse for wear for a week or so.

• fever
• chills
• sore throat
• cough
• headache
• fatigue
• muscle or body aches

COVID-19 Symptoms

People infected with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

For more information about the difference between a common cold, the flu, and COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resource page.

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