Can’t decide if it’s a cold, the flu or COVID? Here’s what to do next.

Can’t decide if it’s a cold, the flu or COVID? Here’s what to do next.

Cough? Sore throat? Runny nose? You may be wondering if your symptoms are the common cold, flu, sinus infection, COVID or perhaps something else.

Dr. Christina Meyer, a family medicine physician at Aurora Medical Center – Summit shares a helpful reminder for patients, “When in doubt, check it out.”

Cold, flu and COVID share many similar signs and symptoms like sore throat, cough and congestion making it difficult to tell the difference among these respiratory illnesses.

“Exact testing is required to rule out other illnesses and confirm the diagnosis. Recommended testing based on your symptoms may include a COVID, strep or flu test,” says Dr. Meyer.

It’s important to understand both COVID and flu can vary in a range of symptoms from severe to no signs of illness. “You may have COVID or flu without your body experiencing symptoms. This is considered asymptomatic,” explains Dr. Meyer.

If you aren’t feeling well, stay home and contact your primary care provider to discuss your symptoms and testing options.

Meyer also encourages video visits. “Video visits are a great option to seek care all from the comfort of your home, especially when you prefer to stay in your comfy clothes or avoid bad weather.”

Not sure if you have cold, flu or COVID? Visit to start a video visit 24/7 and find relief for your symptoms. For additional COVID resources, visit

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  1. pauline krutilla November 11, 2020 at 3:03 pm · Reply

    Are we able to share the above “learn the difference…” with our clients? If so, is there a pdf I could access? Thank you.

  2. When we ask our Covid questions of our patients on the phone we ask about headache but it isn’t listed on this list.

  3. A close friend presented with GI symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, headache and fatigue. She tested positive for COVID with minimal respiratory symptoms. I think anyone with symptoms should be checked for COVID and not assumed to have the flu.

  4. I recently had a mild bout of what I took to be the flu. The only thing that makes me wonder if it was Covid is what seems to be a (I hope temporary) loss of some of my ability to taste & smell. But isn’t the suppression of these senses also a factor in a cold or flu infection? I know with these 2 illnesses I also experience a decrease of my enjoyment of food & a loss of appetite. This might be a defense mechanism the body initiates so food isn’t as appealing & it can concentrate on fighting the infection rather than spending time & energy trying to digest large amounts of food. Anyway, I would like to get my taste buds fully working again.

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About the Author

Liz Fitzgerald
Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Schoenung, health enews contributor, is an integrated marketing manager at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from Marquette University.  Outside of work, Liz has a goal of visiting all U.S. national parks.