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Why do I have a sore throat? Why does my body hurt? Is it a cold? Do I have COVID-19? Ever since the SARS-CoV-2 gripped the world in its clutches, it has led to a rise in fear, panic, and sometimes, paranoia. Every time we feel a bit unwell, it leads to thousands of questions in our minds. Seasonal flu, allergies, etc., can also scare us and leave us doubtful about the coronavirus.
COVID, the flu, cold, and allergies might have a lot of similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate them from each other. Even though it may seem that we are suffering from the coronavirus, it could simply be influenza or seasonal allergies.
A recent study conducted at the University of Southern California found a specific order of symptoms in COVID-19 patients. Most symptomatic COVID patients first get a fever and then a cough. In the case of seasonal flu, patients generally get a cough before fever. Moreover, a common cold usually begins with a sore throat as the initial symptom. Another important point to note is that the onset of symptoms in COVID is gradual, whereas symptoms manifest abruptly in the case of the flu. Let us have a look at a few common symptoms that can help us distinguish between the different kinds of infections.
COVID-19 usually begins with a fever. Other common symptoms that follow are a dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, muscle ache, body ache, headache, shortness of breath, loss of taste, and smell. A few people can show symptoms within two days of being infected, however, for most, symptoms can manifest up to two weeks after being infected. On average, people show symptoms after five days of contracting the infection. The infection manifests in different people in various ways, with symptoms ranging from common to rare. A few uncommon symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, runny nose, hair loss, swollen toes, etc.
The flu usually begins with a cough. The onset of fever is sudden and symptoms are felt within around one to four days after the initial exposure. Recovery in the case of influenza differs from COVID in that flu patients fully recover within a week or two. In the case of COVID however, symptoms can last longer. Other symptoms of the seasonal flu are headache, runny nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, body aches.
The symptoms of a common cold are at their peak within a few days of infection; however, they may appear gradually. Patients suffering from a cold might have a headache for nine to ten days, congestion and runny nose for almost two weeks, and a sore throat for around a week. Symptoms of a common cold could include watery eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, nasal drip, and a sore throat.
The onset of an allergy is abrupt. Allergies may last longer, almost two to three weeks, and won’t resolve till the allergen is present in the air. Itchy eyes, a hallmark of allergies, are usually not found in any of the above illnesses. Symptoms of allergies include itchy eyes, runny or stuffy nose, nasal drip, and sneezing.
These symptoms for each illness may not be the same for everybody. For example, some COVID-19 patients do not develop a fever or show no symptoms at all. Therefore, the best way to determine if we have COVID-19 in case we are doubtful is to consult a doctor and get ourselves tested if recommended. In case we do not feel well or we have been exposed to someone who has the infection, we should take care to isolate ourselves to curb transmission of the virus.