As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, many health care systems across the country are beginning to become overrun with patients experiencing symptoms that are common to many illnesses. To alleviate the pressure on health care workers, here is a guide from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to help you determine whether you have a cold, the flu or allergies or are indeed infected with COVID-19.

COVID-19
Primary symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Fever
Runny nose
Dry cough
Shortness of breath
Fatigue
Body aches
Severe symptoms include:

Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
Pneumonia
Transmission:

COVID-19 is believed to spread from person to person through sneezing or coughing. Respiratory droplets containing the virus can remain on surfaces even after the ill person is no longer near.

“It’s important for us to distinguish the difference between COVID-19 and influenza,” said William Curry, M.D., associate dean UAB primary care and rural medicine. “This will become apparent with shortness of breath.”

“It’s important for us to distinguish the difference between COVID-19 and influenza,” said William Curry, M.D., associate dean UAB primary care and rural medicine. “This will become apparent with shortness of breath.”

If you are experiencing symptoms, call your primary care physician or urgent care facility first.

Influenza (Flu)
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Cough
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Headaches
Fatigue
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
It is important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Symptoms typically last one week.

Common cold
Get the latest COVID-19 information at uab.edu/coronavirus.
While both colds and the flu are caused by viruses and typically lead to a stuffy nose, coughing and a sore throat, knowing the difference between cold and flu symptoms, many of which overlap, can make a world of difference when it comes to figuring out the type of infection you may have.

A cold happens gradually and is felt mainly in the head and the nose, usually with more mild symptoms and fatigue. While you may feel crummy, if you do not have a fever, you can still generally continue to go about your day.

However, if you have the flu, symptoms are much more severe than with a cold and have a quick onset.

Allergies
Allergies are often confused with the flu, but there are a few important distinctions to make. Typical allergy symptoms are:

Sneezing
Congestion
Runny or stuffy nose
No fever
Every season brings with it different allergens, and the most common triggers for spring and fall allergies include pollen from weeds, trees, grasses and mold spores.