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Common Cold and COVID 19: How Can You Tell the Difference?

    Common Cold and COVID 19: How Can You Tell the Difference?

    These days, being mindful of your health is a top priority. This is why it is important to know the differences between the symptoms of the common cold vs COVID-19.

    What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    common cold and covid 19 difference

    COVID-19 or coronavirus symptoms can vary widely from person to person. The virus can cause either mild or severe symptoms, depending on a person’s current state of health and preexisting conditions. Because of this, it can be difficult to know the differences between the common cold vs COVID-19, especially in their early stages. However, there are some symptoms that are particularly unique to COVID-19:

    Dry cough

    Because COVID-19 mainly affects a person’s respiratory system, dry cough or cough with a little phlegm is one of the most common symptoms of the disease.

    Sore throat

    Patients can have a sore throat, though this symptom is not as common as coughing.

    Shortness of breath

    In some cases, patients with respiratory ailments or those with severe cases can experience shortness of breath. This means that they can get tired easily and quickly run out of breath even from doing simple activities. If the symptoms worsen, the patient may find it difficult to breathe in general and require a respirator.


    Fever is another common symptom. This symptom is also one of the reasons that COVID-19 can be mistaken for the flu.

    Runny or stuffed nose

    Lastly, people with COVID-19 can also have a runny or stuffed nose. However, this is a rare symptom.

    What are the symptoms of the common cold?

    The common cold is an upper respiratory infection that mainly affects a person’s nose, sinuses, and throat. Colds don’t usually affect a person’s lungs, but it can happen if the person suffers from a prior conditions like asthma or emphysema.

    For the most part, colds usually go away on their own. Here are some cold symptoms:


    Because the common cold affects the upper respiratory tract, sneezing is a common symptom of colds. Sneezing is the body’s way of clearing the nose of irritants.

    Runny or stuffy nose

    Having a runny or stuffy nose is another common symptom. It’s not a serious symptoms, but it can cause discomfort.


    A person with a cold can also have uncontrollable coughs. This happens when the buildup of mucus in the nostrils reaches the back of the throat. The body then tries to expel the mucus through coughing.

    Sore throat

    Colds can also cause a sore throat. This is usually a result of post-nasal drip or mucus that moves from the nose to the throat.


    Fever is a cold symptom that is more common in children than it is in adults.

    Common Cold vs Covid: How can you tell the difference?

    In a way, the common cold vs COVID-19 have very similar symptoms. This is due to the fact that both of them attack a person’s respiratory system. In fact, how these viruses spread is very similar: if a person with the virus coughs or sneezes, they can easily give it to other people.

    However, the main difference is that COVID-19 usually manifests as dry cough. Sneezing and a runny nose are possible symptoms of COVID-19, but it is still more common for people with COVID-19 to experience coughing and difficulty breathing. Additionally, individuals with COVID-19 may have loss of smell and taste. Furthermore, elderly people with comorbidities would only be presented with anorexia, fatigue and weakness.

    On the other hand, colds usually affect the upper respiratory tract. This means that sneezing and a runny nose are very common symptoms. This is why you should not immediately worry about having COVID-19 if you catch a cold. The best way to determine if you have COVID-19 is to get tested by a certified laboratory.

    At the end of the day, it’s still important to take note of your symptoms and follow safety guidelines. Keep your distance from other people, wash your hands frequently, and stay at home as much as possible to lower your chances of becoming sick.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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    A cold, the flu or COVID-19: What’s the difference? | Ohio State Medical Center, https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/cold-flu-or-covid-19, Accessed October 6, 2020

    Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19​ | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm, Accessed October 6, 2020

    Q&A: Influenza and COVID-19 – similarities and differences, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-similarities-and-differences-covid-19-and-influenza?gclid=CjwKCAjwiOv7BRBREiwAXHbv3GFabCqvkF43uw2akfAj7HntEpGkYgbcYLt4rHfM-w2p856wsIRIiBoCLAoQAvD_BwE, Accessed October 6, 2020

    What’s the difference between a cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, and coronavirus?, https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2020/03/whats-the-difference-between-a-cold-the-flu-and-coronavirus/, Accessed October 6, 2020

    What’s the difference between COVID-19, flu and a cold? | Novant Health | Healthy Headlines, https://www.novanthealth.org/healthy-headlines/whats-the-difference-between-covid-19-flu-and-a-cold, Accessed October 6, 2020

    What are the differences between colds, flu and COVID-19? | Patient, https://patient.info/news-and-features/what-are-the-differences-between-colds-flu-and-covid-19, Accessed October 6, 2020

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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Sep 15, 2021
    Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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