It’s that time of year again when the weather turns chillier and it seems like everyone is getting sick. However, this year, if you have a sore throat or a stuffy, runny nose, COVID-19 might be the culprit or it could just be seasonal allergies. Or maybe it’s a common cold or the flu. Due to their similar symptoms, it might be difficult to determine exactly which condition is causing you to feel ill.
Every year, seasonal allergies, common colds, and the flu become more prevalent at this time. Additionally, according to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronavirus variants seem to be resurfacing at a quicker pace after slowing down over the summer months. In order to get the best possible treatment and care, you need to first figure out why you feel sick.
In this guide, we will go over some COVID symptoms and how they may be distinguished from the symptoms of seasonal allergies, common colds, and the flu.
Common COVID Symptoms You Must Know
COVID is essentially a respiratory condition, but there are several different strains with different levels of severity. You may have heard of the new Omicron virus that has been spreading across the country. For those who don’t know, Omicron is a variant of coronavirus disease that first surfaced in the US in November 2021. The symptoms of other COVID-19 strains and Omicron are very similar – sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, body aches, fatigue, and fever – but Omicron symptoms might be more intense.
As reported by the CDC, the new Omicron variant is now the most common variety of coronavirus in the country. While scientists are still researching its symptoms and degrees of intensity, there’s enough data to identify most of its symptoms.
Before we begin, please keep in mind that symptoms of COVID-19, Omicron, or any other variant vary from person to person. In fact, some infected people don’t exhibit any symptoms at all; they are know as “asymptomatic”. That being said, two of the most common symptoms of this infectious disease are:
Cough, cold, and fever remain the most common symptoms of coronavirus. Nearly 50–70% of COVID-19 symptomatic patients develop a dry cough. A day or two after an individual is infected, a cough usually appears and can remain for several weeks.
Experts say that there is one symptom that could alert you that you’ve contracted the coronavirus: a scratchy throat. A COVID sore throat may seem like any other throat infection, however, it also comes with scratchiness and thickness (when swallowing) in the throat. Many patients experience dryness and irritation as well, which could be brought on by painful throat inflammation.
If your throat infection is mild to moderate, it might just last a week; in extreme circumstances, it may last up to a month. If the condition persists longer than a month, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Other COVID Symptoms
Generally speaking, people who contract the virus report experiencing some of the following COVID-19 symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chills or fever
- Nasal drip
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Aches in the body or muscles
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea and/or vomiting
These symptoms usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Children and adults share similar symptoms, but they are typically less severe in children. More serious COVID complications are more likely to occur in older people and those with serious medical conditions.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, please call 911 for immediate medical attention:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or pressure that doesn’t go away
- A blue-ish tinge in the face or lips
- Inability to get out of bed
If you have any severe symptoms or you are concerned that you might have COVID-19, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor right away. Severe cases require professional medical care.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
COVID-19 is a viral illness, seasonal allergies are not. This is why a fever and chills are so common in COVID patients, but not in those suffering from allergies. Seasonal allergies are essentially due to an allergy to the pollen in the air this time of year, which causes sneezing and itchiness in the nose, eyes, and throat.
Pollen can spark a reaction from your immune system and bring about a wide range of symptoms affecting various areas of your body, including your stomach, lungs, skin, sinuses, throat, nose, and ears. These reactions may take many forms such as:
- Respiratory symptoms, which can range from mild runny or stuffy nose to severe asthma attacks with wheezing, coughing, and sneezing.
- Skin symptoms, which may take the form of hives/rashes, itching of the skin or inside the throat, nose, or mouth, and swelling or redness in the face and mouth.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, which can show up as nausea, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Cardiovascular symptoms, which manifest as dizziness, headaches, and lightheadedness due to the pressure and pain on the sinus muscles.
A notable difference between the symptoms of seasonal allergies and COVID symptoms is that allergies tend to get worse whenever you are outside.
Symptoms of Common Cold or Flu
In addition to COVID-19 and seasonal allergies, colds and the flu are also floating around this time of year. They can easily be passed between people who have close contact or even fleeting contact. Here are some symptoms related to these common illnesses.
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Mucus dripping down throat (post-nasal drip)
- Watery eyes
- Body aches
- Fever (although most people with colds do not have fever)
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
As you can see, many of the symptoms for COVID-19, seasonal allergies, common cold, and flu are very similar. The easiest way to figure out what you have is to take a COVID test or to see your doctor.
Home Remedies for Illnesses
There is no one treatment for COVID, allergies, colds, or the flu, but there are many ways to manage symptoms.
Get Enough Sleep
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to give your body the time it needs to recover from the illness. Maintaining your usual routine or engaging in demanding activities like exercise and work can exacerbate your symptoms and make them last longer. It is best to stay home and rest as much as you can.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Keep your body hydrated by consuming enough fluids to boost your immune system and ease symptoms. Water is best, but sports drinks with electrolytes can also keep you hydrated. Drinking liquids also helps by thinning down mucus, thus making it easier for you to clear your sinuses, nasal passages, and upper respiratory tract as a whole.
Try Over-the-Counter Medications
There are a plethora of non-prescription cold medicines that are highly effective in relieving allergy, cold, and flu symptoms. Antihistamines, decongestants, and cough suppressant drugs can help reduce itching, sneezing, stuffiness, and runny nose, while painkillers can help lower fevers, headaches, and body aches.
Please be very careful not to combine different prescriptions or take more than the suggested dosage in a 24-hour period.
Use a Humidifier
Place a humidifier in your room while sleeping to help with nasal congestion and dry throat. Your symptoms will be much more tolerable and you’ll feel more comfortable while you heal in a humid environment.
Eat Warm Foods and Drink Hot Beverages
Eating warm meals, such as hot soup, and drinking hot beverages, such as tea, can help ease the discomfort of a dry throat and cough. Plus, soups are an incredible source of nutrients, providing your body with essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals that will help fight the illness.
See a Doctor If…
Your immune system will battle the allergies/cold/flu until it is gone over the course of the 2–3 weeks (for pollen allergies), 7–10 days (for cold), or 5–7 days (flu). In some cases, you can get better quicker by following the above-listed tips. However, ignoring persistent symptoms or already having a weakened immune system means you could be at the risk of developing a serious illness. Make sure to see a doctor if you experience any of the following conditions:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe dehydration
- Long-lasting fever (i.e., longer than 10–14 days)
- Cold-like symptoms that last longer than 10 days
- Worsening of chronic conditions
Find the Cause of Your Sinus Condition at South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center
Sometimes, you have tried all the home remedies you come across, but your sinus pain and allergy symptoms keep coming back. Patients just like you come to the South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center every day seeking lasting relief for their unique discomfort and pain. We specialize in getting to the root of our patients’ symptoms in order to create an effective treatment plan.
The allergy season has begun and if you suffer from chronic nasal congestion or recurrent/chronic sinus infection, your symptoms are about to get worse. Our allergy testing can help confirm your symptoms are due to allergies and not some other illness. We can offer you treatments to you alleviate or even eliminate the painful symptoms altogether.
To request an appointment with a board-certified sinus specialist, call us at 954-983-1211 or fill out this contact form.