How to Self-Assess Illnesses during Flu Season

The common cold, seasonal allergies, the flu, and now, COVID-19 all share similar symptoms. It is extremely important to understand the differences between them all for your safety and the safety of those around you. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the risk of potential hospitalization, it is important to get tested after initial exposure. Getting tested is currently the best way to know if you have COVID-19.  At AFC Urgent Care in New Bedford, we offer rapid tests with results in less than 15 minutes, no appointment necessary.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Allergies can come in many different forms and can develop later in life if you have not yet experienced them. They are prevalent during the fall and spring seasons. Allergies are mostly caused by pollen, mold, and dust. There are many different medications that can help ease the symptoms of allergies.  The following are symptoms of fall allergies:

  • Sneezing with running nose
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy sinuses, throat, or ears.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

Anyone can catch a common cold at any point throughout the year. This viral infection primarily affects the upper respiratory tract, and the recovery time is anywhere from 3 to 10 days. Patients typically experience symptoms about 1 to 3 days after exposure, and symptoms are less severe than the flu, but more than allergies. The following are symptoms of the common cold:

  • A running nose (mucus will be thicker than allergies)
  • Congestion with a cough (a wet cough that produces phlegm)
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing

Symptoms of the Flu

Flu season typically falls between October to March. While there is a flu shot to help prevent the spread, there is still a chance of catching the flu. Some rare, but severe cases of the flu may require hospitalization. It is important to get your annual flu shot to decrease the severity of symptoms, and also prevent spreading it to others. The symptoms of the flu come on suddenly, as opposed to peaking after certain days like the common cold. The following are the most common symptoms of the flu:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough (a dry cough)
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID can begin anywhere from 2 to 10 days after exposure. Not every person with COVID will experience the same symptoms or the same severity. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, so the best way to avoid catching it is by social distancing and wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Patients can experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Cough (primarily a dry cough)
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills

The biggest indicator of the differences in these illnesses is their severity. Overall, they do target different areas of the body, but many of the symptoms will feel very similar. If there are any questions or concerns, contact a healthcare professional. If any of these symptoms seem life-threatening, call 911 or visit your local E.R.