How to tell if you have a cold, the flu or COVID-19

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 2:32 PM EST
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(CNN) - COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high, colliding with cold and flu season.

If you are sick, several symptoms seem the same, so to figure out what you might have, think about your exposure risk.

”If you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it increases the probability that it’s COVID-19,” epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said.

If infected with the coronavirus, your symptoms may include fever or chills, cough, body aches, headaches, tiredness, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that having a sore throat, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and having a running or stuffy nose are less common with COVID-19.

”Even though with omicron, it’s less likely that you’re going to lose your sense of smell or sense of taste, those are really specific for COVID-19,” El-Sayed said.

Someone with the flu may experience all these ailments, but the loss of taste or smell is more frequent with COVID-19.

When it comes to colds, fever or chills are not common, but you may have a cough, body aches, tiredness, be sneezing or have a runny or stuffy nose.

”Once you start feeling those symptoms, even if it is the cold or the flu, given the goal of flattening the curve, it’s worth isolating yourself and getting a couple of tests,” El-Sayed said.

After a potential exposure to COVID-19, wait to test once you’re getting symptoms.

In winter months, even allergies can act up, but generally that will not cause fever or chills, body aches or a loss of taste or smell.

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