Women blowing her nose

Do I have COVID-19 or the flu?


Written by: CDHF

Updated: November 30th, 2022

We can’t be the only ones that get scared every time our nose starts to run, or feel a cold come on during the global pandemic. So how do you know if you may have symptoms of the novel coronavirus, or just pesky allergies, the flu or a cold?

While the symptoms of all four conditions can be similar, it’s important to know the differences. After some thorough research, we were able to break down the symptoms of each, which we have laid out below for you!


According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person and may also vary in different age groups. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include:

Although the list may crossover with symptoms of the flu, cold or allergies, the novel coronavirus is at its core a respiratory illness, so the most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and tiredness.

The other symptoms outlined in the list above are less common, are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms. 

The Flu:

Influenza viruses have a similar disease presentation as COVID-19, because they are both respiratory diseases. Both bring about a wide arrange of symptoms from asymptomatic or mild through to severe disease and death.

According to the CDC, flu viruses cause mild to severe illness, including the common symptoms listed in the COVID-19 symptom list. However, the major difference between COVID-19 that differ from the flu include a change in or loss of taste and smell.

In terms of symptoms appearing, with COVID-19 typically a person develops symptoms five days after being infected. Still, symptoms can appear as early as two days after infection OR as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary. With the flu, typically a person develops symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection.

Because the symptoms can be so similar, the CDC mentions testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.


The common cold has the word common in its name for a reason! It remains common, even during this pandemic. Symptoms of the cold usually include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and body aches. However, you will not feel shortness of breath, or GI symptoms, such as diarrhea.

Furthermore, most people will recover from a cold within 7-10 days, in comparison to COVID-19 where in severe cases, it may take six weeks or more to recover, with some resulting in death.

It’s important to note that Ontario and BC suggest reaching out to a doctor and getting tested even if you only have a runny nose or are sneezing to be safe.


Last, but not least – allergies tend to pop up around this time of the year and do tend to share some of the same symptoms. However, the CDC mentions there are key differences between the two. Covid-19 can cause fever, which is not common with seasonal allergies – see below for the major differences outlined by the CDC. 

Further to this, seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, unless someone has a respiratory condition such as asthma that can be triggered by exposure to pollen.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-seasonal-allergies-faqs.html 

As always, it’s important to remember that symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe, and you could have symptoms of both COVID-19 and seasonal allergies at the same time.

So, above all – If you think you have COVID-19, follow CDC’s guidance on ”What to do if you are sick.” If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

Related Articles:

View all News & Articles

Long Covid and Digestive Health


Back to School with the Immunocompromised with COVID-19

Mask on a blue microbe background

COVID-19 Helpful Links

Travel bag with mask

COVID-19 has Changed the Way we Travel

Person on computer at home working

Staying Healthy at Home!

Girl getting an infusion in hospital

Infusion Clinics and COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Medication on a blue microbe background

IBD Medications during COVID-19

Mask and sanitizer

COVID-19 Readiness Checklist for the Immunocompromised

Washing hands

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Immunocompromised

Lightbulbs shining with a black background

Utility Bill Payments in Canada during COVID-19 for the Immunocompromised: What you Need to Know

Marker and calendar to pay rent

Rent Payments in Canada During COVID-19 for the Immunocompromised: What you Need to Know

Street with houses on it

Mortgage Payments in Canada During COVID-19 for the Immunocompromised: What you Need to Know

Toilet paper beside the toilet

Diarrhea as a symptom of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mask and pills

COVID-19 Myth Busters

Women blowing her nose

Do I have COVID-19 or the flu?

The risk of contracting COVID-19 does NOT increase in patients with Celiac Disease: First Global Study of COVID-19 and Celiac Disease

COVID-19 Vaccines in Immunocompromised Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Covid vaccine

Should IBD patients take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Mom and son cooking on facetime

How to Keep Your Child Healthy during COVID-19

Beer bottles being held in the air

COVID-19 and Alcohol: Am I drinking too much?

person with a mask on

Gut Issues and COVID-19: How are they related?