The difference Between COVID-19, flu and Allergy


27TH MARCH, 2020


Question: Doctor Uche, I have a big problem, I have been coughing and sneezing for a long time especially during the harmattan season or when I encounter a lot of dust. It comes and goes but I get some relief when I take Piriton. However whenever I sneeze now, people are running away from me, calling me Corona. I am also scared, how will I know if I catch this Coro virus?

Thanks for your question. Before I dig into the answers in the next paragraph, I’m sorry that you are going through stigma at this period. Keep yourself and others safe by practicing social distancing as well as good respiratory hygiene. Sneeze or cough into your sleeve, frequently wash your hands for twenty seconds with soap and water or sanitize your hands with an alcohol based hand rub. If possible wear a face mask when going out, perhaps that will help to make people a little bit more comfortable. Keep your hands away from your face. You also need to know that chronic cough is a symptom of other chronic diseases which we will not dwell on to answer this question since your cough seems to be due to allergy.

ANSWER: The most conclusive way to FIND OUT if you have the COVID-19 virus is by getting tested. However I know that the test (as at 27/03/2020) is not commonly available in Nigeria. So I will be giving this advice based on clinical features or symptoms.

From what you described, you may probably have been suffering from seasonal allergies especially if your symptoms of coughing and sneezing were worse during the harmattan period. People who have allergies may experience coughing, sneezing and wheezing. They may sometimes have itching and watering of the eyes. If you have been having these symptoms for a long time and you get better with the use of antihistamines like Piriton, then they are possibly chronic symptoms of allergy.

The COVID-19 virus infection, the influenza virus infection (flu), the common cold virus infection and allergies may present in a similar way because they all present with respiratory symptoms. However, there are a few subtle differences

    The main symptoms of the COVID-19 virus are Fever, Weakness, Dry Cough, and Shortness of Breath. With COVID-19, shortness of breath often occurs 5 to 10 days after the first sign of fever. COVID-19 symptoms usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.

Sneezing is not a major symptom of COVID-19.

People who have allergies probably have been having symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, and coughing off and on for days, weeks or even years.

According to the World Health Organization, “the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. “Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea.”“In a report from China of more than 1,000 patients, nasal congestion was seen in only one out of every 20 patients, “Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell,” according to the WHO. Recent reports show that some people lose their sense of taste and smell.

These people can still transmit the virus to those around them, even if they don’t feel ill.

    On the other hand the influenza virus infection commonly known as ‘the flu’ has symptoms similar to the novel coronavirus, such as fever and body aches, but flu rarely causes shortness of breath.

Many symptoms of  flu, and COVID -19 are similar, and it may be difficult to distinguish. One major distinguishing difference is SHORTNESS OF BREATH in COVID-19. This occurs before the development of pneumonia. If you have a common cold or even the more severe flu, and you develop severe shortness of breath along with fever, you will defnitely need to see a doctor because you may have developed pneumonia.

    Stay informed with our updates about the current COVID-19 outbreak. Also, visit our blog on the healthrite company website for more information on how to prepare, advice on prevention and treatment, and expert recommendations.

Live right, Live Long!

Dr Uche

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