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How To Tell If It's Coronavirus, The Flu, A Cold, Or Allergies

Those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies and hay fever don't really look forward to

spring anyway, but thanks to the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus, every cough, sneeze,

or sniffle has become a reason for us, and those around us, to worry.

But doctors like Greg Poland, an infectious diseases professor at the Mayo Clinic and

director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, tells CNN that there is a noticeable

difference between a seasonal allergy and the coronavirus, particularly if you're experiencing

the same symptoms that you do every year.

Poland says,

"The issue with seasonal allergies is that they affect the nose and eye.

They tend to be nasal, and most symptoms are localized to the head, unless you also experience

a rash.

The flu and the novel coronavirus, these affect other systems and the lower respiratory tract.

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."

But bear in mind that not all shortness of breath can indicate coronavirus, because while

allergies might not normally trigger a shortness of breath, they could if you have asthma.

Dr. Maria Teresa Camacho, the medical director of a pediatric intensive care unit, tells

CBS that allergy sufferers shouldn't also expect to see their body temperatures go above

normal range.

She told the outlet,

"[With] allergies you don't have a fever and usually they are seasonal allergies, you know

it's not all the time.

You have congestion, but you don't have a fever and body aches."

Business Insider reports that someone with the virus will have a fever, dry cough, shortness

of breath, will sometimes have headaches, aches and pains, a sore throat, and fatigue;

but there won't necessarily be any diarrhea and a runny nose is rare.

There is no sneezing.

Symptoms of a common cold include aches and pains, a sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.

Symptoms of a flu include a fever, a dry cough, headaches, aches and pains, a sore throat,

and fatigue.

And the most common allergy symptoms are a runny nose, sneezing, and shortness of breath.

It may be a bit more of a challenge to work out the differences between COVID-19, a cold,

and a flu though, because as Poland says in a separate interview with CNBC that the cold

and flu have similar symptoms to the coronavirus.

But if you have all the flu symptoms and you can't breathe, it may be a good idea to get

tested as quickly as possible if you're able.

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres calls it a "tell-tale sign":

"If you start getting shortness of breath, that's definitely a sign to go to the hospital."

Sandra Kesh, a New York-based infectious disease expert tells CNBC,

"Based on what we know so far, [for most people] it will probably be like when you're laid

up in bed with the flu.

You'll start to feel sick, symptoms get worse until they peak, and then they gradually go

away."

The WHO has said that coronavirus, unlike allergies, can go from mild or moderate to

severe very quickly.

Poland tells CNN,

"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.

Allergies may make you feel tired, but they're not going to cause severe muscle or joint

ache."

The infection usually starts in the nose, and once the virus is inside your body, it

attacks the cells that protect your respiratory system.

If the virus stays in the region of your upper airway, then Jeffery Taubenberger, who has

studied infection in Spanish flu victims, tells Fortune that you're not likely to get

as sick.

But if it goes down your windpipe and into your lungs, it can cause pneumonia; it can

also trigger your body's immune system, which is capable of creating more damage.

Taubenberger says,

"Your body is immediately trying to repair the damage in the lung as soon as it's happening.

Normally, if this goes well, you can clear up your infection in just a few days."

The downside to your body healing itself so efficiently is that your immune system ends

up damaging the cells responsible for protecting the lower respiratory tract, and as a result,

Taubenberger says the lungs become vulnerable to a second bacterial infection caused by

germs that normally live in our noses, throats, and in mechanical ventilators.

Bottom line?

Monitor your symptoms carefully, and take all necessary precautions to prevent potentially

spreading disease to others, including maintaining social distancing and regularly washing your

hands thoroughly.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but if you're getting worse instead of getting better

over the course of a few days, seek medical attention.