Cold, flu or COVID-19? How to tell the difference

The ailments caused by cold, flu and COVID-19, which stems from the coronavirus, can have overlapping symptoms. But there are some stark – as well as a few subtle – differences, according to health authorities.

Below are the major symptoms of all three, culled from the CDC and other sources.

Symptoms of COVID-19Corrections updates Covid-19 death figures which were mislabeled initially; Graphic compares causes, transmission, vaccines, infections and deaths between influenza and Covid-19.

  • Sudden onset
  • May appear 2-14 days after exposure (though some studies indicate it might be longer)
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of COLD

  • Gradual onset
  • May appear 2-3 days after exposure
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Slight aches
  • Occasional fatigue and weakness
  • Mild to moderate chest discomfort and/or hacking cough


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