What You Need to Know About Allergies, Asthma, Flu and COVID-19

Connect Healthy Tips What You Need to Know About Allergies, Asthma, Flu and COVID-19

Wondering what the difference is between allergies, asthma, flu and COVID-19? We’ll walk you through the symptoms of each illness so you’ll know whether that cough came from your allergies or something more serious.

Asthma and allergies often manifest similar symptoms, and it is very common to mix them up. These days, we might also confuse either with the flu or COVID-19.

It is especially hard to tell the difference during change of seasons. Pollen, dust and other irritants can trigger both allergies and asthma. In contrast, a virus causes the flu, which is a respiratory infection. The coronavirus causes COVID-19.

All of these conditions have the ability to make your life uncomfortable. Therefore, it is important to know the differences and similarities between them to ensure proper treatment if you or some you know have asthma or allergies.

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes the airways to narrow and makes it harder to breathe. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and/or tightness
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

Allergy Symptoms

Allergies are an immune response that is set off when your body is oversensitive to a certain stimulant like certain foods, mold, dust, or pollen.

Allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose and eyes and skin
  • Congestion
  • Dry skins or hives

Treating Asthma and Allergies

Both of these illnesses are incurable, but the symptoms that show up can be eased with medication. Here are some other things they have in common:

  • For some people, these two conditions can be connected. For example, an allergic reaction can cause an asthma attack.
  • Most medications or treatments are made for one or the other, but there are a few that treat both conditions.
  • A health care professional must diagnose them.
  • They affect your quality of life.
  • Both can affect anyone.

Flu Symptoms

The flu virus is transferred from a sick person to a well person through droplets when the person sneezes or coughs. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

There is a vaccine that is mostly effective against the virus if you get it in time.

Most people heal from the flu on their own, but people who might be in danger are very young or very old people, and those with compromised immune systems.

COVID-19 Symptoms

A new, or novel, virus causes the highly infectious disease, COVID-19. Because it’s new, we don’t have immunity to it and we’re just learning how it affects people.

This disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing

Preventing the Flu and COVID-19

The biggest difference between allergies, asthma, flu and COVID-19 is that the flu and COVID-19 can be avoided if you practice proper protection methods. These include staying away from sick people and washing your hands well.

Good handwashing methods include washing regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water or using hand sanitizer that is at least 90 percent alcohol. To avoid getting others sick, stay home and self-isolate if you feel unwell or have a fever. Don’t touch your face if your hands are not clean.

This healthy tip is provided by the Health Information Center. The Health Information Center and Preston Medical Library are still available electronically during Knoxville’s Stay at Home order.

The Health Information Center is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists, and you can get health information delivered electronically or by mail for free. Contact them at 865-305-9525 or library@utmck.edu.


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