Can You Tell the Difference Between the Symptoms of Asthma, Allergies, Cold, Covid, and the Flu?

Can You Tell the Difference Between the Symptoms of Asthma, Allergies, Cold, Covid, and the Flu?

It is cold and flu season. If you have asthma, it can be hard to differentiate the symptoms from the cold, flu, and allergy symptoms. When you add Covid-19 in the mix, it becomes even more confusing. Many of the symptoms overlap and it can be hard to tell what exactly you have. 

So what do you do? We created a guide with the symptoms of each to help you differentiate between them. If you are sick or your asthma is flaring up, you should still talk to your doctor.

lemon and ginger to help a cold

Flu Symptoms

The flu is caused by the influenza virus and is a respiratory illness. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe and start suddenly. The flu can be life-threatening, but that tends to be in rare cases. The symptoms of the flu include:

  • Headache 
  • Fever (usually over 101)
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (usually in children)

A vaccine is available for the flu and many doctors recommend getting a flu shot every year. Even if you get a vaccine and still get the flu, it tends to be less severe than if you hadn’t gotten the vaccine. The vaccine also lowers your chances of being hospitalized because it helps your body fight it off better. 

A common myth about the vaccine is that it can give you the flu, but this is not true. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is a dead virus so you cannot get sick from the shot.

People who have asthma or other preexisting conditions are at higher risk of complications from the flu. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor and get your vaccine as soon as possible. The vaccine also helps protect people around you from getting severely sick with the flu.

If you do have the flu, talk to your doctor about possible treatments. While there is an antiviral treatment for the flu, it can only be given in the first couple of days of contracting the flu. Many times, you just have to wait it out and control symptoms with over the counter medication.

Cold Symptoms

The cold is milder than the flu, but it can trigger asthma problems. If you do catch a cold, make sure to have your mesh nebulizer near you in case your symptoms start flaring up and you have trouble breathing. 

Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Mild cough
  • Sneezing
  • Mild body aches
  • Low-grade fever

If you have a cold and it doesn’t get better after a few days then contact your doctor. Most cold symptoms go away on their own, but sometimes they linger. If you experience trouble breathing from a cold, make sure to take your rescue inhaler, follow your asthma action plan, and call your doctor right away.

If you have cold symptoms but they aren’t that bad, then chances are you can wait it out at home. Fever reducers and other over the counter medicines will help you feel more comfortable while your body rids itself of the virus.

Asthma Symptoms

Do you have an asthma action plan? If not, now is the time to create one. An action plan gives you information on how to manage your asthma. Categories include preventive medicine, quick-relief medicine, and get help from a doctor. 

By following your asthma action plan, you can lower the chances of an asthma attack because your symptoms are better controlled. If you have trouble breathing and can’t get to your inhaler, call 911.

Symptoms of an asthma emergency: 

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Trouble talking or walking due to breathing issues
  • Lots of coughing
  • Your inhaler is not working
  • Lips or fingernails turn blue
  • Skin sucked in around ribs and neck (usually in children)
  • Nostrils are open wide (usually in children)

Listen to your body and know when to get help. If your action plan isn’t working, then it is time to get more help from the hospital, 911, or your doctor.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms happen when you are exposed to “triggers,” which can cause inflammation in your nose. There are many types of allergies and common triggers include dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. 

Allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Hives (in rare cases)

If you have allergies it can make your asthma symptoms worse. For mild symptoms, over-the-counter antihistamines help control your runny nose and itchy eyes. A dry eye mask can help relieve itchy and watery eyes as well. To use the mask, preheat it for about five minutes and put on your eyes for about 10 minutes. This can be done twice a day.

Covid-19 Symptoms

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus that spread throughout the world in December 2019. We are still learning about the symptoms and treatment of Covid-19, but many people who contract the virus experience symptoms such as:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting

Some of the less common symptoms include:

  • Hives or rashes
  • Blue lesions on toes (called Covid toes)
  • Pinkeye

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, contact your doctor and avoid other people. If you have been exposed to someone who has Covid-19, it is still a good idea to call your doctor. 

Before you visit the office, call them to ask for instructions. They will likely have a different area for suspected Covid-19 patients. 

If you have severe trouble breathing, chest pain, or trouble waking up then go to the emergency room right away or call for help. 

doctor getting ready to treat patients

Keep an Eye on Your Symptoms

Typically asthma and allergies don’t come with a fever. The common cold is much milder than the flu or Covid-19. Take note of what symptoms you have and how severe they get because this will help your doctor make the right diagnosis.

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