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Difference Between Coronavirus vs Flu vs Cold vs Allergies

Coronavirus refers to covid-19 which is a novel virus that causes respiratory problems. The flu is a virus that also causes respiratory issues and occurs in different strains. A cold is caused by many different viruses and is usually a mild illness. Allergies are caused by environmental allergens.

What is Coronavirus?


Coronavirus, also called covid-19, is the betacoronavirus which causes a form of respiratory illness that particularly afflicts the lungs.

Symptoms and transmission:

The major symptoms of covid-19 are very high fever and chest problems, sometimes leading to problems with breathing. The illness is highly contagious and transmitted from person to person, but it is a suspected zoonosis.


Mortality rate is about 10 times more than the seasonal flu, and it is worse in people older than about 70 years.

Diagnosis and treatment:

Diagnosis is via a molecular test but an antibody test is currently also being developed. Treatment is limited to supportive therapy such as supplemental oxygen and IV fluids.

What is Flu?


The flu is a viral illness that tends to occur seasonally and it involves usually the upper and lower respiratory system.

Symptoms and transmission:

Flu symptoms include body aches and pains, headache, cough, a fever, sore throat and congested nose. It is contagious and people can easily catch the flu from sick individuals.


The death rate from the flu is about 1/10th that of the covid-19 but it does cause many people to die every year, particularly the very young and very old. Mortality, though, can vary depending on the strain of flu.


Treatment is usually symptomatic but antibiotics may be used if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.

What is Cold?


A cold is a viral illness that affects the upper parts of the respiratory system causing a short-term illness that resolves usually without problems.

Symptoms and transmission:

Symptoms of a cold include a runny nose, congestion in the nasal region, a sore throat and cough. People do not have a fever with a cold, but it is contagious and easily passes from one person to another.


People do not usually die from a cold unless they have an extremely weak immune system, such as the case with people who have HIV. 

Diagnosis and treatment:

A cold is usually diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms and the lack of a fever or chest problems.

What is Allergies?


An allergy is a reaction to some allergen in the environment such as pollen, ragweed, or smoke. 

Symptoms and transmission:

Some common signs you have an allergy are having red, watery and itchy eyes, a runny nose, sneezing and sometimes a rash. Allergies are not contagious and so there is no concern of making others sick.


Dying from allergies is quite rare but in a few cases anaphylaxis occurs in which people can die, but death can be avoided if they carry an EpiPen and can get medical treatment in time and avoid exposure to dangerous allergens.

Diagnosis and treatment:

A person can be diagnosed through various allergy tests and antihistamines can help with symptoms. It is best to avoid dangerous allergens due to the risk of anaphylaxis.

Difference between Coronavirus  vs Flu vs Cold vs Allergies


Coronavirus is an infection of the lower respiratory system caused by covid-19. The flu is an infection due to the flu virus. A cold is caused by many different viruses. Allergies are a response of the immune system to an allergen.

Causative agent or agents

Coronavirus is caused by a type of betacoronavirus. The flu is caused by the influenza virus in the family Orthomyxoviridae. A cold is caused by many viruses, but most often, rhinovirus. Allergies are caused by environmental allergens.

How soon symptoms appear

The symptoms of covid-19 show up from 2 to 14 days after infection. Flu symptoms appear from 2 to 7 days post-infection. Cold symptoms appear in about 1 to 3 days. Allergy symptoms usually show up immediately or within a few hours of exposure.

Most common symptoms

Coronavirus has symptoms of high fever, dry cough and problems with breathing. The flu symptoms include fever, body aches, sore throat, a cough, a congested or runny nose. A cold has symptoms of sore throat, congested nose, a cough, but no fever. Allergy symptoms include red, itchy water eyes, and congested or runny nose, and sometimes a rash.

Level of contagiousness

 The coronavirus is very contagious, the flu and cold are also contagious conditions but are not as contagious as covid-19. An allergy is not a contagious condition.


The mortality rate of covid-19 is about 10 times higher than the flu, particularly for old people. The flu does cause some deaths each year among the very old and very young. A cold rarely causes death. Death from allergies is rare but can happen due to anaphylaxis.

Table comparing Coronavirus vs Flu vs Cold vs Allergies

Summary of Coronavirus Vs. Flu Vs. Cold Vs. Allergies

  • Coronavirus, the flu and cold are all illnesses caused by a virus.
  • Coronavirus, covid-19, is the most contagious of these respiratory illnesses and it also has the highest mortality rates.
  • Allergies are not caused by a virus but by environmental allergens.

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schema_unui_coronavirus.png

[1]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schema_unui_coronavirus.png

[2]Image credit: https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/14/2001877868/-1/-1/0/180214-F-MM194-0001.JPG

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_lady_suffering_from_the_Common_Cold.png

[4]Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/allergen-allergic-allergy-health-207424/

[5]Akpan, Nsikan. “new-coronavirus-spreading-between-humans-how-it-started”. National Geographic, 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/01/new-coronavirus-spreading-between-humans-how-it-started/

[6]Cascella, Marco, et al. "Features, evaluation and treatment coronavirus (COVID-19)." StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2020.

[7]Wat, Dennis. "The common cold: a review of the literature." European Journal of Internal Medicine 15.2 (2004): 79-88.

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