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, viruses cause the flu (influenza) and COVID-19 (coronavirus SAR-CoV2).

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.

woman coughing

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.

Person blowing nose

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.

Man looking at thermometer with towel on forehead

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.

close up of a person wearing a mask


Like the flu this disease spreads primarily, through respiratory droplets when an infected person cough, sneezes or talks. Droplets can land on the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Droplets can also land on surfaces near the sick person and possibly spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.


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. Avoid close contact with sick people. Whenever possible maintain 6 feet of separation and sanitize your hand regularly and use a cloth facial covering to contain any droplets and prevent infecting others.


Good handwashing methods include washing regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water and using hand sanitizer that is at least 60 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 and remember to wash your washable face masks.


For more information about asthma and allergies or to schedule an appointment with Dr. John Wade, please call 304.675.1244. Dr. Wade’s office is located at 2414 Jefferson Avenue in Point Pleasant.