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COVID-19, the flu and allergies: how to spot the difference

Posted at 8:48 AM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 11:48:20-04

PHOENIX — Doctors say COVID-19, the flu and allergies all have similar symptoms and it can be difficult to distinguish between them.

Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician at One Medical, says a cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose and a headache are symptoms of all three.

But she says there are a few distinguishing factors.

“With COVID-19, we see people having a loss of sense of smell or taste and we don’t see that with the flu,” Dr. Bhuyan said. “But with COVID-19, we also have people experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. You can also see that with the flu as well, so that is not a distinguishing symptom. We tend not to see that with allergies.”

Dr. Bhuyan says flu symptoms typically peak and subside in three to five days. COVID-19 symptoms typically get worse in five to eight days and allergy symptoms can be constant, lasting for weeks.

She says if you are experience any symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away.

“What I’m telling people this year, which is different than other years, is if you have any respiratory symptoms reach out to your PCP (primary care physician) and get some diagnostic testing done,” Dr. Bhuyan said. “That might be a COVID test, it might also be a rapid flu test that you can get in the office.”