Is sneezing a symptom of COVID? How to tell the difference between virus, allergies and flu – NBC Chicago

Is sneezing a symptom of COVID-19?

Allergy sufferers ask if their recent symptoms are caused by the cold environment, a cold, the flu, or the coronavirus.

Experts say the only real way to know the answer is with a test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms, assuming they’re related to COVID.

“If you think it’s a cold, if you think it’s the flu, then it’s probably COVID,” said Dr. Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady in a news conference late last month. “You have to stay home if you’re not feeling well.”

Arwady said that now that Omicron cases continue to spread, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID will not necessarily “get seriously ill and have fever and difficulty breathing for days” but instead have a milder illness.

“They may just feel like they have a cold,” she said. “That’s good because they don’t get seriously ill, they don’t threaten the healthcare system, but it’s certainly worrying because they have the potential to spread to others.”

Doctors have reported some cases of what is known as “Flurona,” or co-infection of COVID and the flu. But according to Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health, says there’s no definite way to tell the difference between COVID and the flu — and no real way to tell if you have both.

“We make most of these diagnoses clinically,” he said.

In hospitals, testing “not just for COVID, but for the entire respiratory panel” is increasing across the Chicago area, Loafman said, but testing for such cases is only done when a patient is sick enough to need medical care.

While the symptoms are nearly identical, there can be subtle differences, Loafman said.

“One thing is that when you have the flu, when you have influenza, the fever tends to be a little higher, but that’s subtle,” he said. “So 101, 102 [degree] Fever can occur with COVID, fever can get a little higher with flu, but it can also be low grade. Aside from that, you know, cough, headache, stuffy nose… congestion, some shortness of breath – these are all very, very common with both flu and COVID, and I guess for most of us we wouldn’t really differentiate be able.”

Sore throat continues to be a reported symptom, particularly with mild breakthrough infections, Arwady said during a Facebook Live last week.

“Particularly in people where we see these easier breakthrough infections, we definitely see that sore throat is a predictor in this group,” Arwady said.

She reiterated previous calls for people with flu or cold-like symptoms to assume they have COVID “until proven otherwise”.

“Even if it’s a sore throat, whatever it is,” she said. “I’ve told my own staff this, I do it myself…if you’re sick, even a little bit sick, stay home. Right now more true than ever because sick, even a little sick until proven otherwise with a test – this is COVID. That’s how we treat it, that’s how you should treat it.”

dr Katherine Poehling, infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said NBC News last week that cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant. But unlike the Delta variant, many patients do not lose their taste or smell.

The evidence so far, according to Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She also noted that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.

Still, CDC data showed that the most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.

Symptoms as listed by the CDC

Overall, symptoms for COVID reported by the CDC include:

  • fever or chills
  • to cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body pain
  • a headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • congestion or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

“This list does not include every possible symptom,” the CDC explains. “Please call your doctor if you have other symptoms that are severe or that affect you.”

The CDC also has what they”Coronavirus Self Check‘, which allows people to answer a series of questions to determine if they should seek medical help.

“The Coronavirus Self-Checker is an interactive clinical assessment tool designed to help people ages 13 and older, and parents and caregivers of children ages 2 to 12, decide when to seek testing or medical care if they suspect they may have that you or someone you know has contracted COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the CDC’s website said.

Here’s how to use it.

The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to look out for emergency warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms, including:

  • difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • New confusion
  • inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you care for has contracted COVID.

For the flu, the CDC lists the following symptoms:

  • Fever or fever/chills
  • to cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or limb pain
  • a headache
  • exhaustion (fatigue)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults

When it comes to allergies, the CDC notes that some people may experience symptoms of rhinitis and conjunctivitis. These symptoms include:

  • Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
    • Sneeze
    • runny nose
    • traffic jam
  • Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:
    • red, watery, or itchy eyes

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