Check your symptoms: telling the difference between COVID-19, flu and seasonal allergies

By Regence
April 08, 2020
symptoms graphic Regence

Dr. Drew Oliveira, Regence's Senior Executive Medical Director, explains key differences

Sneezing, coughing or feeling feverish? As COVID-19 continues to affect the health of our communities, it’s understandable to assume the worst. But experts urge us not to panic.

“We must also remember that at this point, we’re also entering allergy season and many of us are still experiencing seasonal colds and the flu,” says Dr. Drew Oliveira, Regence’s Senior Executive Medical Director. “These viruses exhibit some of the same symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19.”

Here’s a look at some of the common symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, the common cold, flu and COVID-19:

Seasonal allergies: More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Common symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuff nose, water eyes and congestion. Others may experience headache, shortness of breath and coughing.

Common cold: The common cold affects millions of Americans each year. Colds typically result in mild symptoms that last 1-to-2 weeks. Common symptoms include a runny or stuff nose, but no fever.

Influenza (Flu): According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each season. Symptoms range from mild to severe and include a mild-to-high fever, moderate-to-severe headaches, cough, fatigue and nausea.

COVID-19: As of Monday, April 8, over 417,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the CDC. Symptoms range from mild to severe and include a cough, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing in severe cases.

Dr. Drew Oliveira explains the difference between these viruses and what to watch out for in this video.


If you have seasonal allergies, take the same steps you’d typically do, such as taking allergy medication and monitoring your symptoms.

Additionally, if you are unsure about your symptoms, consider an assessment at home before taking further action. Earlier this week, the CDC launched a COVID-19 symptoms screening tool that provides a series of questions for you to answer around risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms; once you complete the questions, the tool provides recommendations on next steps.

If you are experiencing long-term symptoms that are commonly associated with COVID-19, Dr. Oliveira says that the next step is to call your primary care provider. 

“Your doctor can review symptoms with you and determine if an in-person visit is necessary. Simply showing up in person at a doctor’s office or urgent care center could expose you to viruses or result in you passing the virus to others.”

Keep up on the latest around COVID from Regence and review tips from our medical directors on staying healthy.