How to tell the difference whether an infection is COVID-19, or the flu or a cold?

As the new Covid variant omicron sweeps across the globe, it is difficult to know whether one has caught a cold, or flu or COVID-19. It is tough to distinguish between the three infections as they all have similar symptoms. According to one expert, the simplest way to know your infection is to take a COVID test and check the result. If it is negative, you can check and find out whether you have a cold or flu.

Dr. John Torres, NBC News senior medical correspondent told TODAY that COVID cases were “accelerating dramatically” while flu cases were just beginning to increase. So, it is better to isolate and take a COVID-19 test to make sure that it was not Covid. If a person did not test positive for COVID then they could test for flu or consider that they had a cold. The doctor believed that every one should assume it is COVID until they get a negative test report.

How to tell the difference between the three infections? The symptoms are mentioned below, according to Dr. Torres.

Common Cold

The common cold symptoms build up over a period of time. They occur in a few days. They include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough and congestion.


Flu symptoms come suddenly and can be severe. It can hit you hard and sometimes it is difficult to get out of bed. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches.

General Covid

General COVID-19 symptoms include a loss of taste or smell along with flu and cold symptoms such as headache, sore throat, runny nose , fever and body ache. The extra or different symptom is loss of taste or smell.


The omicron variant of SARS CoV-2 is very similar to cold symptoms. Some of the symptoms are cough, fatigue, runny nose and congestion, night sweats and not much loss of smell or taste. The different and new symptom seen in omicron cases is the night sweats.

Dr. Torres advises you to get tested for COVID if you get any of these symptoms so that you can rule it out, if you test negative. The good doctor also says that it is not too late to get vaccinated for the flu and for COVID. It takes a few weeks to build up immunity. If you are not vaccinated, now is definitely the best time to get vaccinated for future protection

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