Differentiating coronavirus from allergies and colds

Mar 13, 2020, 12:06 PM
coronavirus anxiety...
(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman)

In many cases symptoms for coronavirus are not as worrisome as people seem to fear, and sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between coronavirus and a rudimentary sickness. Chief Medical Officer at PRO Medical Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss what to look out for.

“Coronaviruses are largely responsible for the common cold. So there is going to be similarity between the symptoms of COVID-19 and the common cold. Now some people have said, ‘Well, is it just allergy?’ Because we’re sort of getting into allergy season right now,” he said.

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“But people who have allergies don’t have fevers, and one of the things you see on the news all the time when they’re doing screening of people coming into cities is they’re checking people’s temperature as a superficial screening process.”

So if you’re feeling sniffles or you’re coughing and you take your temperature and it’s normal, chances are you don’t have it.

“That’s correct. The biggest challenge, I think, is sort of how to differentiate coronavirus from the cold and or flu. They’re all caused by viruses and so they’re harder to differentiate from one another.”

Is general testing essential at this point? In London, for instance, it appears that they are only testing if you display the symptoms described above.

“In terms of your own personal health, if you have mild symptomology, the testing isn’t really going to make a difference for you. But from a public health point of view, it’s probably important to know right now because we’re trying to understand as much as we can about the disease.”

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The difficulty is that a person infected with the virus can spread it before any symptoms show up, and so if a person doesn’t have symptoms and is unaware if they have it, all that can really be done is to reduce the number of social gatherings and hope that helps.

“Right, you and I could have it right now, even though we don’t have any symptoms and we could be out in public and passing it on. It’s different than having a cold or a flu; the dogma has been that if you’re symptomatic then you’re infectious for both the cold and the flu,” Dr. Cohen said.

“But when you’re not symptomatic, you’re no longer infectious. This doesn’t follow that trend so to speak. And that’s the point of canceling social gatherings because you don’t know if you have it or not, and you could easily be passing it on unknowingly.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Differentiating coronavirus from allergies and colds