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A cough and fever could be signs of the common cold or an indication that someone has contracted COVID-19, now ranked as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a cold, the flu, allergies, and COVID-19 have similar but also distinctive symptoms.

Here’s how to tell the difference:


Oak pollen is high now in Central Texas, and grass and hackberry rank in the medium range. Oak is expected to peak in early April. Signs of an allergy include:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • red, swollen eyes
  • itchy eyes and nose
  • throat tickle

A fever is rare where allergies are concerned.


September 29, 2019, marked the official beginning of flu season in Central Texas. It typically ends sometime in May. The flu is known by the following symptoms:

  • sudden onset
  • fever or chills
  • cough and sore throat
  • runny or congested nose
  • achy body
  • headache
  • severe fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea


Symptoms peak within two to three days for colds, which basically follows the same season as the flu: October-May. Symptoms are:

  • sneezing
  • runny or congested nose
  • cough and sore throat
  • post-nasal drip
  • watery eyes

Cold sufferers rarely show signs of a fever.


  • gradual onset, up to 14 days after exposure
  • shortness of breath
  • fever above 100 degrees
  • dry cough
  • sometimes headache or other aches and pains
  • mild sneezing

Fatigue and diarrhea are rare symptoms of COVID-19. Some fatigue may be noted but not as severely as with the flu.

Emergency warning signs for COVID-19 are:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face

Anyone who suspects coronavirus should call their doctor or local health care providers or clinics before going in personally. The disease is highly contagious, and the first step in screening can be done over the phone. Precautions are taken for patients who may have the disease when bringing them in for treatment.

For more information on COVID-19, visit the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services webpages dedicated to the novel coronavirus.

1 thought on “Difference between COVID-19 and cold, flu, or allergies

  1. Thanks for this succinct, yet informative article. The guidelines are clear. C U in a couple weeks.

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