How to Differentiate COVID-19, Flu and Cold Symptoms

By April 11, 2020April 13th, 2020COVID-19

It can be challenging to distinguish between the symptoms of COVID-19, the Flu and a cold.



Individuals infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms or symptoms that may be similar to other respiratory illnesses like flu and the common cold. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to COVID-19, and in most cases, it appears approximately 4 to 5 days after exposure.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough (usually dry)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Decreased appetite

Less common symtom are:

  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Productive cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Unexplained loss of taste or smell reported by some patients

In children, symptoms can be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Lethargy
  • Poor feeding

Generally, people recover from this disease without needing special treatment; however, sometimes it can progress to more serious illness and can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney failure and even death, especially in individuals with high risk of serious illness such as the elderly or with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma or having weakened immune system.
If you have symptoms:

  • Stay home
  • Take the COVID-19 self-assessment
  • Call your local Coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline or a health care provider for instructions and advice regarding testing
  • Do not go to an Emergency (ER) unless you have a medical emergency

 In case of a medical emergency:

  • Call 911 or your local health emergency number
  • Notify the operator of your emergency; if you also suspect that you may have COVID-19 or exposure to the virus explain this to the operator during your call
  • If possible, put on a face mask before emergency medical services arrive


How to Differentiate COVID-19, Flu and Cold symptoms:

How to Differentiate COVID-19, Flu and Cold Symptoms

To download and print this symptoms chart click here.


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